Nunzio Campanile brings high school football background to Rutgers


After Saturday’s 52-0 loss to No. 19 Michigan, Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs fired former head coach Chris Ash and offensive coordinator John McNulty. With eight games left in the season, Hobbs selected tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile to lead the Rutgers football team through the remainder of the 2019 season.

Campanile is an intriguing choice for interim head coach, as he only took his first college job in 2018 when Ash hired him to become the Scarlet Knights' (1-3, 0-2) running backs coach.   

What made him such an attractive candidate was what he did before he came to the Big Ten: Campanile first made his name as the offensive coordinator at Don Bosco Prep from 2000 to 2009. While in Oradell, New Jersey, he played a pivotal role in the development of future Rutgers quarterbacks Mike Teel and Gary Nova. 

In 2010, he took over as the head coach at Bergen Catholic, another North Jersey football powerhouse. In his eight seasons in charge of the program, he led them to a 60-29 record and a state title in 2017 — which he won with redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Langan at starting quarterback. During his tenure, the Crusaders were consistently ranked in the top 100 high school programs in the country. 

His background as an offensive mind was another key element of the decision to promote him on an interim basis, as the lack of offensive production was a key factor behind Hobbs’ decision to pull the trigger on the coaching change.

“I saw some things in terms of offensive production (that I didn’t like),” Hobbs said. “And I think we have more talent in this room than we were showing (this season).”

Campanile will have complete control of the offense moving forward, as he will also take McNulty’s role as offensive coordinator and play-caller. But Knights fans who expect a drastic change in offensive scheming will probably be disappointed. 

“I don’t think you can make major overhauls — we have basically five days to get ready for a game,” Campanile said. “So I think a lot of it is streamlining what we do and having the players understand what we do.”

Now that he’s got the job, Campanile is tasked with winning football games with an offense that is currently ranked 113th in FBS, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Is he ready for that challenge?

“I guess we’ll find out,” he quipped. “I think football is football … and I think I’m prepared to lead these guys going forward.” 

And with the permanent head coaching job still up for grabs, a few wins this year could make Campanile a dark horse candidate. Hobbs certainly isn’t ruling anything out at this stage.

“Anyone who can come in and make Rutgers football competitive will be a candidate for the head coaching job,” he said.


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