After Another Bad Season, Rutgers Moves to Re-hire Former Football Coach

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Former Rutgers University football coach Greg Schiano could be re-hired to his old job at a public meeting of the Rutgers Board of Governors at 10am on December 3.

Schiano accepted the head coach position for the first time nineteen years ago today, and led the team from 2001 to 2011 before leaving for an unsuccessful stint in the National Football League (NFL).

The deal that could return the coach to Rutgers is reportedly worth $4 million per year over the next eight years, and includes a total of $25 million in guaranteed pay.

Schiano’s return has been championed by NJ.com, and influential New Brunswick figures from both the development and political scene.

Greg Schiano

The news outlet has called Schiano’s 68-67 record with the Scarlet Knights “deceiving” because he took over a team that was doing poorly in 2001, something he will have to do again.

If he gets re-hired, Schiano will take the helm of a 2-10 team that had a record of 1-11 in the previous season. This year, they were outscored 440-159 by their opponents.

During Schiano’s tenure at Rutgers, the team achieved six postseason appearances, winning five non-BCS bowl games.

But the team also ran $13.6 million in deficits in his last five years alone, funds that had to be subsidized by “university support and student fees.”

The latest news comes after weeks of football fan outrage, donors threatening to pull large donations to the University, and calls to fire the school’s Athletics Director, Pat Hobbs, after talks to re-hire Schiano broke down.

Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy spoke to Schiano about his potential contract, and his list of demands that many are concerned will become a strain on Rutgers University’s budget.

The Governor didn’t hesitate to praise the potential return of Schiano on December 1, posting on social media: “Just took a call from Greg Schiano and spoke to [Rutgers] President [Bob] Barchi. Thrilled to usher in a new era of Rutgers Football with Greg at the helm. Rutgers student-athletes, alumni, and fans deserve a top-flight program that strives for excellence both on and off the field.‬”

However, not everyone wants to see Schiano back at Rutgers.

The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which includes Rutgers’ own Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy (VPVA) group, have taken a stance against re-hiring the former coach, with their Executive Director saying that his role as an assistant coach at Penn State while another coach was sexually abusing boys should be “disqualifying.”

Schiano had reportedly met with Athletics Director Hobbs, and Rutgers Athletics Committee chairman, Greg Brown, to discuss re-signing him as head coach. But after weeks of speculation, the talks broke down.

Now, the discussions have not only resumed, but the parties appear to have struck a deal, pending approval of the Board of Governors.

Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs

“The next great chapter for Rutgers Football is about to begin,” Hobbs said shortly after the Board of Governors gave the public notice that it would be meeting to discuss the proposed contract.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to prejudge any action that the Board of Governors may take, but I believe today that Rutgers Football is on the path to greatness.”

But many fear the cost of Schiano’s salary and the other demands that he has negotiated could affect academics in a negative way.

Just 22% of the University’s operating budget is funded by the state government. The rest of the $4 billion budget comes from different revenue streams including student tuition, which the Board of Governors voted to increase by 2.9% earlier this year.

Prior to the deal being reached, NJ.com reported, “Schiano is seeking a written commitment from Rutgers to construct a new football-only facility, which would replace the team’s current Hale Center headquarters, as well as an indoor practice facility to replace the current practice bubble.”

The new contract, and the cost of constructing two new athletics facilities–one of Schiano’s demands–along with that of buying out ex-coach Chris Ash’s contract, will no doubt be a heavy burden on Rutgers’ finances.

AAUP-AFT Treasurer David Hughes

David Hughes, Treasurer of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Faculty Union, said the re-hiring of Schiano was the latest move to demonstrate the “fiscal irresponsibility of the Barchi administration.”

“It disturbs us that the board of governors should devote this much energy and this much attention to one man,” stated Hughes. “Athletics was never intended to be a top priority of this institution.”

But Hughes says it seems like athletics “has a place of honor ahead of [academics], ahead of decent pay for faculty and staff, ahead of health benefits and secure contracts for the the medical faculty.”

Hughes also said that football has been known to cause traumatic brain injuries, another reason it should not be prioritized by the administration.

“The dangers of football are becoming apparent,” said Hughes. “The intellectual risks are becoming clearer and clearer. And there needs to be a full re-examination of this form of entertainment.”

As for the fact that Schiano would be the state’s highest-paid public employee, Hughes said: “That makes absolutely no sense in any state.”

As history has shown before on the banks of the Old Raritan, investing heavily into the football program does not necessarily lead to better results on the field or positive cashflow for the university.

Rutgers Stadium, now known as SHI Stadium

In 2007, Schiano was coming off a promising season, and the university decided to expand Rutgers Stadium, a project slated to cost $102 million and expand its seating capacity significantly.

This came at a time when the university had been cutting classes, majors, publications, and staff members, including professors, and citing financial reasons for the cutbacks.

In addition to several academic programming and research magazines, a decision was made by the Athletics Department cut six Olympic sports, heavyweight and lightweight crew, diving, fencing, swimming, and tennis.

The move saved just $2 million dollars in costs – part of an effort to make up for an $80.4 million budgetary shortfall the department experienced that year, according to the New York Times.

The expansion of Rutgers Stadium, now called SHI Stadium, hurt Rutgers finances in the long run as opposed to making a profit for the Athletics Department.

The costs were supposed to be paid for by ticket revenue, as well as merchandise, and donations earmarked for the project.

But ticket sales have been poor, falling far short of their goal to the point that $72 million of the costs had to be paid through commercial loans and bonds.

Gov. Jon Corzine

The remaining $30 million was supposed to be raised independently though an initiative spearheaded by former Governor Jon Corzine.

However, the funding effort fell overwhelmingly short of its goal, only boasting a $1 million personal donation from Corzine and roughly $93,000 dollars from Scarlet Knight supporters.

The questionable stadium costs were incurred during a period when the Athletics Department was also implicated in a “secret side deal” to steer an extra $250,000 to Schiano and other instances of irresponsible spending. It was widely understood that Schiano had been given free reign to do what he wanted.

Rutgers University eventually fired Athletics Director Robert Mulcahy for this situation, but Schiano still praised him and gained the ability to install his childhood friend, Tim Pernetti, as the next Athletics Director.

Following the stadium expansion project, Rutgers students experienced repeated tuition hikes, with one student experiencing an 8.5% increase in their term bill, according to National Geographic.

During the 2010-11 academic year, a faculty resolution was passed opposing tuition hikes, after students were forced to pay upwards of $8.4 million in student fees to help cover the Athletics Department’s $26.8 million loss.

That same year, $18.4 million was taken from University’s general funds to help cover the multi-million dollar loss.

Schiano reacts to being fired from his NFL job

Conveniently, that was Schiano’s final year at Rutgers and he began his short term as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

He was fired from the Tampa Bay job after two seasons, and became an assistant coach for Ohio State.

His most recent assistant coaching job was earlier this year with the NFL’s New England Patriots, but he quit after just a few weeks.

While the university was experiencing financial trouble at the time, and students were paying high tuition rates, Greg Schiano was profiting heavily off the university and its students through bonuses that he received for his players’ academic grades and for getting the football team into bowl games.

Schiano was also given wide latitude to spend university money, including unlimited helicopter and private jet rides. His contract also included a “secret” buyout clause that would allow him to leave the job without paying a fee if the stadium expansion project was not completed by 2009.

Schiano’s former home in Piscataway

As a part of his contract, Rutgers University also agreed to develop wooded land that had been part of the school’s ecological preserve to build Schiano a $800,000 house on Logan Lane in Piscataway, over the protests of local environmentalists.

The coach also received an interest-free loan and loan forgiveness up to $100,000 each year on the mortgage. Schiano sold the house for $1.35 million in 2014.

Re-hiring Schiano, and giving into his demands, is reminiscent of past fiscal irresponsibility and a sense of desperation at a university trying to be something that it is not: a sports franchise.

Schiano has always a big game talker, both on and off the field, and he was able to secure millions in additional spending money for the Athletics Department, while negotiating his way to becoming one of the top twenty highest-paid college football coaches in the United States.

After an impressive 2006 season, Schiano played upon the football fervor that overtook New Jersey, capitalized on the star players he had recruited, and used his power to encourage massive construction projects, and to increase the financial standing of certain people within the Athletics Department, while the rest of the university community paid the price.

Former Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood

But when Schiano left, the fervor didn’t leave with him. The Board of Governors agreed to sign his successor, Kyle Flood, to a salary in excess of $1 million per year before he left in disgrace following the 2015 season.

Flood was followed by coach Chris Ash, who Rutgers agreed to pay almost twice as much as Flood before Hobbs fired him in the middle of this season.

Even though Ash managed to win only eight games in four years, the fired coach still stands to make millions off of Rutgers if he remains unemployed. According to NJ.com, Ash “is still due approximately $8.47 million in bi-weekly paychecks now that he has been fired.”

It’s not clear what the exact terms of the proposed deal are. New Brunswick Today has requested a copy of the contract that is set to be voted on by the Board of Governors but has not received one.

Members of the public who wish to address the board on the matter must sign up by contacting the University Secretary’s office before 10am on December 2, according to the board’s meeting procedures. Secretary Kimberly Pastva can be reached via email at [email protected].

The board meeting will be held in Winants Hall on College Avenue.

 

Jad is a local writer, organizer, and life-long resident of New Brunswick. He is a graduate of both Rutgers University and The University of Toronto.

He can be reached at 732-474-7924 and [email protected]