PISCATAWAY, NJ–Rutgers’ weeklong search for a new football coach has come to an end, with the school hiring Ohio State University's co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash to be the team’s 30th head coach.
Ash has served as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, and won a national championship with the Buckeyes last year.
Ash will also make almost twice as much as Kyle Flood, the coach who was fired just eight days earlier.
The new coach was introduced in a December 7 press conference at the Hale Center, where he fielded questions from the media alongside University President Robert Barchi and newly-hired Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs.
“I want to build a first-class program here: a program that the university, the State of New Jersey, high school coaches and high school players can be proud to say that this program is theirs and they want to come here and be a part of it,” Ash said.
Ash's five-year contract includes a guaranteed $11 million in salary over the life of the deal, specifically a starting salary of $2 million per year, plus a guaranteed $100,000 annual raise.
The contract also includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in "performance incentives," bonuses that will be paid to Ash in certain cirumstances.
Just a few of the examples: Ash will be due extra pay if the team makes it to a conference championship game ($100,000), or a Big Ten bowl game ($100,000), or if he himself wins a Big Ten Coach of the Year Award ($50,000) or National Coach of the Year ($100,000).
The biggest bonus would be $500,000 if the team wins the national championship, which means they would advance to the national championship game.
Ash will still coach the Ohio State defense for one final game on New Year's Day, as that team takes on Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl .
However, Ash assured fans that "the days that [he is] back in Columbus to help with the preparations for the bowl game and will not take away from what we're trying to build here."
Before his tenure at Ohio State, Ash spent three years as an assistant coach at Wisconsin. Coach Bret Bielema promoted Ash to defensive coordinator ahead of the 2011 season.
He spent two years calling defensive plays for the Badgers before following Bielema to Arkansas, where he spent one season as defensive coordinator in 2013.
With the exception of Arkansas, all of the defenses Ash has coached have ranked in the top 15 nationally in total defense, and his current Ohio State squad ranks second nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 14.0 points per game.
Ash looks to bring that level of play to Rutgers, and make the Scarlet Knights a team that opponents will fear on a weekly basis.
“I want to build a fast, physical team that plays with relentless effort, tremendous enthusiasm, and plays for each other,” the new coach said.
“I want our opponents to turn on the film and say, you know what, this is a real one. We'd better strap it on because these guys are going to come and they are going to play hard. They are going to play together, and they are going to play for four quarters. And that's the type of program that I want to try to build here at Rutgers.”
The off-the-field issues that plagued Rutgers this past season will hopefully be a thing of the past under Ash. He said at the press conference that he is looking for his student-athletes to make good decisions.
“We want guys to be able to make the right decisions because they know if they make the wrong one, it's going to let down one of their brothers, one of their teammates,” he said.
"What I'm looking for from our student athletes are commitment, accountability, great effort in everything that they do."
Since Kyle Flood’s dismissal after a scandal-plagued season, fans have had no shortage of names linked to the Rutgers vacancy to speculate on.
Temple coach Matt Rhule, former Scarlet Knights assistant and current Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal, and even former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano were all widely speculated to be candidates to replace Flood.
Several reports over the last few days suggest Rutgers brass narrowed its options to Ash and former Miami head coach Al Golden, before deciding on Ohio State’s defensive boss.
Ash will have his work cut out for him as he looks to turn around a Rutgers program that is coming off its worst season since 2010, finishing with a 4-8 record. The Scarlet Knights were just 2-5 at home and 1-7 in Big Ten play this year.
The on-field performance coupled with several controversies, including the arrests of several current and former Scarlet Knights, ultimately resulted in the firings of Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann after a season-ending loss to Maryland on November 28.
As we reported, Flood will be paid $1.4 million to leave the job, regardless of what he chooses to do next because he was fired "without cause," even though it appears the university had cause to fire him.
Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for inappropriate contact with a professor regarding the grades of one of the team's top players, a player who was later arrested and charged with participating in a violent assault.
After canning Flood and Hermann on November 29, Rutgers wasted no time in finding their replacement.
Just hours after Hermann was let go, Rutgers president Robert Barchi announced Patrick Hobbs, previously the dean of Seton Hall’s law school, as Rutgers’ new athletic director.
Hobbs was put to work right away to help with the search for a new head coach.
The fate of the rest of the Rutgers football coaching staff remains to be seen, including that of interim head coach Norries Wilson, who also led the team during Flood's suspension.
At the very least, fans can likely expect Ash to bring in his own offensive and defensive coordinators.
In addition to leading a new team and building his coaching staff, Ash will also be tasked with recruiting the class of 2016.
Since Flood’s dismissal, two Rutgers commits have already decommitted from the program.
Ash is expected to make an effort to retain Director of Recruiting E.J. Barthel, who is known to have a good connection with Rutgers’ 16-man recruiting class.
Prior to joining the staff at Wisconsin, Ash was also an assistant coach at Iowa State, San Diego State and his alma mater, Drake.