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Greg Schiano's F.A.M.I.L.Y.

This issue is only of nominal concern to the football program, but it may be of interest.

Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the state of New Jersey. A majority of Italians both in the United States and Italy proper are at least nominally affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, that designation does not apply to Greg Schiano. Presumably at some point - college at Bucknell, years of being an assistant coach at Penn State and in the NFL - he converted to Evangelical Christianity. As a private citizen, that was and remains his right and choice. Such beliefs are far from uncommon in the sport of football, or athletics in general in the United States. Women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer and her team are closely affiliated with Rev. DeForest "Buster" Soaries. In fact, she donated $1,500 to his failed bid for Congress several years ago.

College, of course, is the time when many individuals grow intellectually, and first become exposed to many new ideas. Several years ago, I saw a flier on a bulletin board in Piscataway. It had been posted by the local chapter of the Campus Crusade for Christ, publicizing future appearances by three speakers. One was Kent Hovind, a noted Creationist, which set off my internal alarm bells. The second was former basketball coach Gary Waters. Waters infamously divided the team during his tenure, creating the belief by many players he had crossed a line into proselytization, and was seen as a hypocrite for condoning several other unsavory practices (which I will keep private) at the same time. The third was Greg Schiano.

In 2006, Greg Schiano donated the proceeds from his Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award to two organizations: the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Athletes in Action, an Evangelical Christian organization that Gary Waters had also been affiliated with. Schiano has been known to publicly talk about his faith.

Several more pieces of the puzzle came to light last season. A person, claiming to be former Rutgers starting linebacker Brian Hohmann, made some pointed comments on Aditi's blog.

His morals and values--those deeply held Christian beliefs he made very explicit to us in various ways (while an agent of the state government no less)--took a backseat when Greg's rage took over. What would Jesus do if a player did not always do things perfect at all times? Greg might ask himself this as he looks at his WWJD bracelet.

While many, many Rutgers players have a wonderful relationship with Coach Schiano, there are certainly a couple disgruntled former players. L.J. Smith was not on speaking terms for him for a while, but they did eventually settle their differences. Clark Harris reportedly blames Schiano for not making it in the NFL. That's life, and every program has similar stories to tell. The "interesting" part per se are the religious comments.

Later on in 2007 came the case of Art Forst. He was a resident of Manasquan, New Jersey - part of the "Irish Riviera" in Monmouth County. A few observers put two and two together and assumed that Notre Dame would be a major player for Forst, but that turned out to be incorrect. Forst was not Catholic. He was a Protestant, and credited Schiano and his faith as being a major selling point towards attending Rutgers.

Two months ago, there was a lot of internet heffing and hawing over a paragraph in a article regarding the commitment of Duron Harmon. It has been reproduced enough in various places that I will quote it in full:

"Today when I talked to Head Coach Greg Schiano the things he was saying to me really made me commit to them. He was telling me how he has a vision for the team and that he is working toward his goal on visions from God. He wants players coming to represent the school well and as a young man full of faith, I really want to play for a coach that has a strong belief as well."

It's certainly possible that Harmon or Matt Alkire (the article's author) did not articulate the gist of the quote correctly.

Yesterday, Aditi Kinkhabwala of the Bergen Record wrote an entry on her blog that inspired me (divinely one can only presume!) to write about this topic.

He's worn a W.W.J.D. bracelet since I've known him and once, when I was writing a story on former running back Justise Hairston and I wasn't sure about the biblical story Justise's mother told me, Greg pulled out a bible and explained the passage to me.

Ultimately, does this topic really matter? Aditi still covers the football team, so presumably she was not offended enough by that conversation to resign. As a matter of record, the Rutgers football team under Greg Schiano has had players from Jewish, Muslim, and even Rastafarian backgrounds. There have been players who do not practice any religion. Greg Schiano may indeed be a very religious man, but he has also shown to be a tolerant one. Some of the things he says may make fans squeamish from time to time. However, if he continues to do his job, and wins his share of football games, this is unlikely to ever emerge as a serious concern.