Legacy left behind
Schiano resigns, accepts head coaching job for NFL’s Bucs after 11 seasons at Rutgers’ helm
When Greg Schiano took over as head coach of the Rutgers football team in 2000, he said he planned to build the program on a foundation of rock. It would take longer than building it on stilts, he said. But it would be built forever.
The 11-year head coach left the foundation yesterday, when Athletic Director Tim Pernetti announced Schiano signed a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Needless to say, it’s definitely a bittersweet day here for us at Rutgers,” Pernetti said. “I congratulate Greg. I think what he’s done for Rutgers is really immeasurable. The state he put this program in … is a great state.”
Pernetti can attest to the depleted circumstances in 2000, when Schiano took the job. Pernetti called it the “worst program” in the nation 11 years ago, when the Scarlet Knights were Big East afterthoughts.
The Knights never won the conference championship Schiano once promised, but the foundation Schiano implemented remains.
“This program is not a rebuild,” Pernetti said. “This is a move forward. This thing is priced to move in every way.”
Pernetti said he learned of the Buccaneers’ interest in Schiano a week ago, days before Oregon head coach Chip Kelly reportedly declined the Buccaneers’ offer.
But talks between Schiano and Tampa Bay intensified during the last two days, Pernetti said, culminating with yesterday morning’s reports of the head coach’s hire.
Pernetti and Schiano, who coached Pernetti at Ramapo High School, tried to address the Knights yesterday before media reports surfaced.
But many players left and arrived at the Hale Center yesterday with little information before a team meeting at 3 p.m., when Pernetti and Schiano both addressed the team.
“I know for a fact that Coach [Schiano] wanted to keep it quiet and meet with us before anything was finalized,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene, the Big East’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year. “That didn’t happen.”
Schiano finished his coaching career in Piscataway with a 68-67 record, but the teams he inherited little resembled Big East competitors. His NFL desirability likely did not hinge on the wins and losses he compiled.
“Greg obviously has done a great job at Rutgers,” said New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one of Schiano’s close friends, in a Buccaneers press release. “I think he is a tremendous coach, [and] that’s done a great job with that program. And his players have been very NFL-ready. Guys that come out of that program, when they get to the NFL, most of them make it.”
Four former Rutgers players find home on the Patriots’ roster. Belichick’s endorsement, as well as Schiano’s NFL pedigree, likely aided Schiano in his first head coaching stint in professional football.
Schiano was Dave Wannstedt’s defensive assistant with the Chicago Bears for three seasons.
He served as former Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis’ defensive coordinator at the University of Miami, where in 1999 the Hurricanes boasted the 12th-best scoring defense. And he coached Penn State’s defensive backs from 1991 to 1995 under former head coach Joe Paterno.
Schiano maintained ties to State College, Pa., as a possible successor — in the media’s eyes — to Paterno. And his name was also linked to the Michigan head coaching vacancy in 2007, filled by former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez, and Miami in 2001 and 2006.
But he began his college-coaching career where — for now — it ends: at Rutgers in 1989 as a graduate assistant.
“Whatever profession you’re in, you strive to succeed in that profession at the absolute pinnacle,” Pernetti said. “There are 32 guys in the world that have these jobs. So the NFL is, to some extent, the pinnacle of football coaching. I’m sure that had to be an appealing thing for Greg.”
Schiano aimed for the top of the Big East, vowing to transform Rutgers into a mainstay among the conference’s elite. But the Big East endured a pair of transformations of its own.
Boston College, University of Miami and Virginia Tech left the conference during a two-year period less than five years into Schiano’s tenure in Piscataway.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last September their intentions to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. Meanwhile, West Virginia continues to wage a legal battle with the Big East to align with the Big 12.
Schiano faces no such dilemma as an NFL head coach.
“Anybody that stands up here and says conference uncertainty is not a concern anymore is lying to you,” Pernetti said. “It’s something I wake up with every single day. The uncertainty and fluidity of the situation has everyone concerned.”
Pernetti, a four-year letter winner at tight end for Rutgers, said he tried to convince Schiano to stay. But he also knew despite his own “hope and expectation,” Schiano was not guaranteed to stay at Rutgers forever.
“I’ve been ready for this moment since the day I walked on this campus,” Pernetti said. “We’ve been ready.”
Pernetti continues to prepare his shortlist of candidates, one of which he could hire by Feb. 1, National Signing Day for high school recruits. Schiano’s former assistants continue to recruit, patching up relationships with players, committed and un-committed.
And life in Piscataway continues on, despite the absence of its 11-year rock.
“Being a player, I didn’t come because of Coach Schiano,” said senior cornerback Brandon Jones. “I came here because of the program. It doesn’t have to do with just one man. The program’s not going to change because one man left. It’s still a foundation he built that is going to last forever.”