Schiano urges unity, hopes to bring back pride to football program

Greg Schiano said the updates on Livingston campus and on the College Avenue campus will help the school seem more attractive to potential football recruits.
Photo by Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky | The Daily TargumGreg Schiano said the updates on Livingston campus and on the College Avenue campus will help the school seem more attractive to potential football recruits.

Head football coach Greg Schiano — standing alongside Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi, Board of Governor Greg Brown and Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs — held an introductory press conference at the Hale Center on Busch campus on Wednesday. 

In each of their individual speeches, before Schiano took questions from members of the media, they all said the former coach’s return was a significant moment for New Jersey and Rutgers University. 

“We all came together and we are all here today under a common belief that a successful Big Ten Conference football program will be a tremendous source of pride for Rutgers University. Rutgers University in turn is a tremendous source of pride for our entire state, and this is truly a unifying moment,” Murphy said. “We know a successful program will not only attract more top student athletes to Rutgers University, but it will also attract more students to Rutgers University and with it, more people to New Jersey as a whole.”

Schiano, in his speech, gave a passionate pitch for New Jersey and the University community to come together and support the football team. 

“What just transpired was an incredible effort by our University. You can't say any more that Rutgers is not all in. Rutgers is all in. Now it's our turn. Starts with me, our players,” Schiano said. “Our fans. Our boosters. Everybody's got to go all in, because here is the problem, we entered the Big Ten Conference a few years ago and the teams that we're looking up at right now, they are not waiting for Rutgers: Hey, come on guys, catch it, not even happening. They are moving.”

The program needs all the help it can get, and Schiano wants everyone to help promote and support it, he said. 

“Again, we're chasing some big dudes. No, we're passing, that's what we've got to do. We ain't chasing. We're passing and that's got to happen, and it's going to take every single one of us to do it,” Schiano said. 

In addition to needing New Jersey’s support, the football program will need new facilities to build to the point where Rutgers University can compete with the top programs in the Big Ten Conference, Schiano said. Schiano must secure 50% of funding for a new football facility with private donations before a building plan can be submitted to the Board of Governors, according to The Daily Targum

Despite the needed upgrades, Schiano said he saw the new building additions on Livingston campus and on the College Avenue campus on a low-key drive through of campus with his wife during a layover at Newark Liberty International Airport. He already had more recruiting tools to work then he had during his initial tenure as the program’s head coach, Schiano added. 

“I turned to (my wife) Christy and I said, ’Oh, I hope this works’,” Schiano said, referring to the ongoing contract negotiations with Rutgers University at the time. “We recruited these players with nothing. Literally it was a great academic school but it wasn't — like compared to other campuses, we kind of hid the campus. Now I can't wait to get our recruits out on that campus, show them proud, say look at this, look at this, because there is no place nicer. It's beautiful.”

Schiano also thanked former interim head coach Nunzio Campanile for taking over the program following the firing of former head coach Chris Ash four games into this past season. Campanile compiled a 1-7 record under his eight-game tenure as interim head coach.

Most notably, Campanile’s football players showed signs of improvement against one of the nation’s powerhouse teams — Penn State. On the road, Rutgers University amassed more total yards and first downs than the No. 12 Penn State. 

“Nunzio Campanile did an incredible job, incredible job. We would text back and forth, and I was really excited for him because he's an excellent coach,” Schiano said. “He kept this group together, and he kept them fighting and that is not easy to do. If you follow sports, that is not easy to do in the situation they were.”

Schiano is allotted $7.7 million for assistant coach salaries, per his contract. Campanile, who enters his third year on the Banks, will retain as an assistant coach under Schaino’s new coaching staff.

Alumnus defensive tackle and motivational speaker Eric LeGrand, who played under Schiano from 2008-2010 before suffering a spinal cord injury during his junior season, was in attendance for his former coach’s introduction. Schiano supported LeGrand and his family during his recovery. 

LeGrand’s No. 52, which is the only retired jersey at SHI Stadium by the football program, was presented by Hobbs to Schiano following remarks.

“It warms my heart because we need him. We need what he brings to our program,” LeGrand said. “(We need the) whole University and state to rally around somebody who’s done it before. And the man that he’s made me into and the man that he can make these young men become.”

Wrestling head coach Scott Goodale and men’s basketball head coach Steve Pikiell were also spectators at the Hale Center. Goodale and Schiano’s tenures overlapped for five years of Schiano’s tenure, with the wrestling coach being hired back in 2007. 

Pikiell had just returned from the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s recent trip to Pittsburgh and was easily impressed by Schiano’s charisma in the press conference. 

“I’m looking forward to getting some time with (Schiano) in his office. (I’ll) talk to him about some of those challenges that I’ve faced and that he’s faced in the past,” Pikiell said. “I’m excited that he’s back. After hearing him today, I want to play for him.”

With the wheels intended to reinvigorate the football program now set in motion, Schiano’s hiring is fitting, despite pushback from people who think the Rutgers Department of Athletics will continue to lose money, Barchi said. 

At Tuesday’s special Board of Governors meeting, members of the University’s faculty and Rutgers community said the money being spent on athletics and Schiano’s contract should instead be spent on academics and faculty contracts. 

“It's entirely fitting that as we end the celebration of the birth of college football, 150 years ago, right here at Rutgers University, that we are also making an announcement like this,” Barchi said. “And it's fitting in the year that we celebrate the centennial of Paul Robeson, one of our greatest football players, that we welcome back to the Banks one of the greatest football coaches that we've ever had as we make our next step in a resurgence towards national level competition and take our rightful place at the top of the Big Ten Conference.”