An established FBS coach abruptly leaves without a hint of public warning. Seemingly panicking, an athletic director hurries to promote an internal staffer in the name of consistency with the prior regime. Does that sound familiar? The previous few sentences describe how Kyle Flood got the head job at Rutgers of course, and similarly could apply to Clark, NJ native Frank Spaziani's ascension at Boston College a few years ago. Flood did well in luring two BC coaches to greener pastures in New Jersey (with mixed reports on the status of a third), but at the cost of bringing to mind a few comparisons with Spaziani and Boston College that are not all that flattering.
Despite all the similarities, there are a few key, critical differences between the Boston College of three years ago and the Rutgers of today. For one thing, BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo fired Jeff Jagodzinski for the cardinal sin of daring to interview for a New York Jets job that he was not particularly likely to get. Jagodzinski had not established himself as a great coaching prize mind you, having largely won with Tom O'Brien's players. but it was a move that seemed inexplicable at the time. The firing looks even worse in retrospect. Even with Jagodzinski's stock in serious decline following lackluster runs with Tampa Bay and the UFL, Spaziani's record has gotten worse in each season. The firing was a mistake, and not launching an exhaustive search for a replacement just compounded the error. You can say the same for all subsequent micromanaging.
So no, Flood's tenure is not the end result of an incompetent athletic director making a mad grab for power. Greg Schiano left of his own volition for the NFL; the tricky thing was with the timing. It was a week before Signing Day, so Pernetti's hands were pretty much tied. Rutgers was in line for a top twenty five recruiting class on paper, and even with a few defections likely with the changeover, his candidate pool was limited both by a need to keep the class intact, and to act within an extremely short time frame. Thus, no comprehensive search. There was at least a method to the madness here, even of no one really has any clue at all how Flood will fare in his first ever college head coaching gig.
It does bear pointing out that Spaziani's resume was significantly better on paper in 2009 than Flood's in 2012. That is not necessarily a good thing, if you think a coach has to be young and energetic, with Spaziani drawing criticism for luring a close friend in Gary Tranquil out of retirement to serve as offensive coordinator a few years back. However, at least Spaziani can point to experience working with Joe Paterno and George Welsh, and at being a top coordinator at Boston College. Kyle Flood as a bowl subdivision head coach would not have seemed outlandish at all in 2007, when his stock was red-hot as one of the best position coaches in the country.
There were extenuating circumstances (play calling) that can explain why the Rutgers offensive line struggled badly during the past few years, but Flood undoubtedly bears a brunt of the blame for middling talent evaluation, recruiting, and player development. The old master lost has magic touch, and now it's suddenly supposed to be back now that Rutgers is recruiting top linemen again, and running a pro-style offense proved that Flood was not entirely to blame for 2009 and 2010. Sure, he earned another year as a position coach, but head coach is quite a big leap from that. With Mario Cristobal wanting to stay in Florida, and New Jersey high school coaches disapproving of Steve Addazio, there simply wasn't any other viable choice given Pernetti's established criteria.
That last point offers one key distinction with Spaziani that ultimately is in Flood's favor. Rutgers has better fan support and a better recruiting base than BC, which make it easier to win here to begin with. Even taking that into account, Pernetti's single-minded focus on high school recruiting (having deputized himself on the staff, and providing personal updates to NJ Governor Chris Christie on that matter) offer a stark contrast to how BC's classes have steadily eroded alongside their final records. For the class that just signed, they struck out on a number of top targets, and seemingly lost decommitments by the week. Losing one player weeks back after Schiano left was the exception that proved the rule. BC has still landed some good players down the middle from New Jersey in recent years, but the writing is on the wall for Frank Spaziani, and Dave Brock and Ben Sirmans were smart to get out while they still could.
After a decade of consistency, Greg Schiano's departure threw the football program into a period of great uncertainty. Time will tell whether Flood was the right choice to keep Rutgers in a position of stability, finally break through to the next level, or regress back to Graber/Anderson-style mediocrity. For better or worse, all signs point to Rutgers continuing to chug along at its above average, 8-4 level (recruiting could improve that), with the new hires outright promising that not much will be changing. That is, of course, with the gigantic caveat that no one in their right mind can possibly predict how Kyle Flood will perform as a head coach, or whether Robb Smith warranted a promotion to defensive coordinator. The only thing for sure is that spring practice is just around the corner, and should offer the first glimpses as to whether this group are positioned to succeed on the banks.