Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti's rolodex can rival any other figure in college sports due to his lengthy stints at ABC Sports and CSTV/CBS Sports. After the past twenty four hours, you never know, theoretically he could be this close to being named the next head of NBC Sports. For now, Pernetti's the man in charge though, deputized as a member of the coaching staff to help keep a waivering recruiting class in the fold. As such, there is a ton of pressure to act quickly. Rutgers has a top class, and was widely seen as a favorite to sign local star Darius Hamilton. Getting a new guy in place quick would be ideal, but the search also cannot be rushed. That is a tricky balancing act, but what other options are there?
Let's at least make the following assumptions:
1. Rutgers is not going to lure a coach from most top tier college programs. Budget will be an issue, obviously (TP's track record suggests flirting with a big name, before landing a lesser guy with a bit more substance), although not to the extent that erroneous reporting about athletic department finances would suggest.
2. Rutgers wants to win, but not at all costs. The new hire will have to have a commitment to top academics and keeping players out of trouble.
3. Rutgers won't land the next Joe Paterno, but presumably they will try to go after another ten-year coach. This isn't a fly-by-night athletic department like Cincinnati, who build into their business model the assumption that whoever they hire will quickly move on. So basically, they're not going to jump on the biggest mid-major name out there, only for him to turn out to be Todd Graham in a year.
4. The next hire will have ties to the region, or the school (aka, the Mario Cristobal exception.) So, it most likely won't be Gus Malzahn/Kirby Smart/Chad Morris/Brent Venables, etc.... This isn't brain surgery. The next coach will have spent a considerable portion of his life in the area east of Pittsburgh, and north of Washington D.C. That's hardly over-the-top parochialism. After Terry Shea's disastrous tenure in the late 90s (where an inept mid-major coach from California came in, and drove a mediocre program off a cliff), Rutgers will never again take the chance again on a complete outsider. They could hire a Frank Cignetti from Pittsburgh, or a James Franklin from Maryland; but they're not going after the next big coach in the Mountain West. Not going to happen. Yes, Doug Graber was halfway decent at Rutgers, and he was from Michigan. The right outsider, who comes in humble and willing to listen, could well succeed. They just are not going to take that chance again any time soon.
With that being said...
The top tier candidates:
Al Golden - Basically, the exact same coach as Greg Schiano. A local from Monmouth County who is a great defensive mind, can recruit, and is somewhat sketchy in his in-game management. Yes, he is the current head coach at Miami, but Miami isn't Miami any more, and they are likely facing crippling sanctions due to the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Which, Golden was not informed of before taking the job. That's not to say that he will leave, but if you're Tim Pernetti, you at least have to make the call. Miami is a shell of their former selves, but the name still resonates enough that this hire would be the only way to reverse the negative vibes from Schiano's departure completely. Even if the substance isn't really there, and he'd probably just win eight games a year for an over-inflated salary.
Other downsides include the fact that he runs a 3-4 defense, which is a very poor fit for RU's current personnel on defense. Speaking of which, his defensive coordinator is Mark D'Onofrio, who left Schiano's staff on very bad terms in 2004. Having another Paterno worshipper on staff wouldn't be great either - if there's one upside to Greg leaving, it's that we can finally drop the hagiography for a figure that 99% of Rutgers fans despise to their very cores.
Mario Cristobal - Of the remnants of Greg Schiano's coaching tree, Cristobal is by far the most realistic. He has done a great job turning around Florida International, with Florida obviously being a critical recruiting ground during Greg Schiano's tenure. Cristobal was a well-liked assistant early in the Schiano era, and unlike D'Onofrio, is still well-thought of in Piscataway. He was a finalist at Pittsburgh recently before losing out to Paul Chryst. A big reason why was his lack of experience. Schiano was the youngest FBS head coach when Rutgers took the chance on him, and more growing pains could be in store if Mario comes back north. Also, he's the odds on favorite to replace Golden once he's inevitably fired for mediocrity/takes over for O'Brien at Penn State/etc... etc... Cristobal is a certain finalist, and will undoubtedly get an interview and strong consideration.
Steve Addazio - Laugh all you want Florida fans, you try fitting Tim Tebow into a pro style offense. Okay, so he's not an offensive coordinator. That doesn't mean he's a bad coach at all. Sure, Addazio took over a loaded Temple team from Golden, but they hammered Maryland last year, and nearly beat Penn State. Addazio is attractive owing to his deep recruiting ties to the region, having convinced the likes of Will Hill and Justin Trattou to sign with the Gators. Yeah, selling Florida isn't exactly a challenge, but he has a proven track record with programs like Don Bosco and St. Peter's Prep, and served under Paul Pasqualoni at Syracuse in the late 90s. Addazio's specialty is the offensive line, so you know he would shore up that unit quickly, and stick with the pro style offense that Rutgers fans favor.
Dan Mullen/James Franklin - Either would be great, but would they really consider leaving the SEC? Mullen, of course, turned down Penn State in a heartbeat. Franklin is a bit more interesting, with Vanderbilt always being an uphill climb in the league, but he likely has a bit of loyalty for getting a chance after Maryland unceremoniously dumped him. Isn't everyone assuming that he is waiting for Edsall to fail, so he can return to College Park as the conquering hero?
Bob Diaco - Keith Sargeant floated the Notre Dame defensive coordinator's name out there. Diaco is a New Jerseyan who heeded the call of that accursed Iowa pipeline back in the day. He's mostly worked under Brian Kelly as a coach, with a quick sojourn at UVA under Al Groh. Diaco's defenses haven't been all that impressive to be honest, and as a 3-4 coach he is not well-suited to the current Rutgers defensive personnel.
Frank Cignetti - Current Rutgers offensive coordinator is well-liked, which will at least warrant an interview in the name of continuity. Paul Zeise claimed that he had a chance at the Pitt job last year, but lost out due to the perception that he is a bit too ambitious and quick to interview for new jobs. Still, Cignetti proved to be a miracle worker at Rutgers in 2011; think about it like this. If Greg Schiano never hired Cignetti, he'd be closer to out of a job at Rutgers today than the head guy in charge down in Tampa. The best reason to hire Cignetti? Pitt doesn't seem to have a clue what they are doing, and they didn't want him, so clearly there must be some upside here.
Kyle Flood - The current Rutgers offensive line coach is the new interim coach. For a while, it seemed like he was on the fast track to stardom after putting together three amazing offensive lines from 2005-2007. The wheels came off after Kirk Ciarrocca came on board in 2009. Clearly, a lot of the dropoff was Ciarrocca's fault, but Flood probably went a bit overboard in his taste for under-the-radar sleeper prospects.
Darren Rizzi - Rizzi will get an interview too. He was a former top assistant under Schiano, who was seen as the most likely internal successor before jumping to Rhode Island. He quit after a year to coach special teams with the Dolphins, and is well-regarded in that capacity. Still, the jump from a NFL position coach to head coaching is probably far too big a leap. Another Bergen County guy like Schiano and Pernetti.
K.C. Keeler - Former Rowan HC who's now been at Delaware for a decade. Has generally turned in solid teams, although outside of the Flacco year, Keeler is still in the shadow of Tubby Raymond. Is a Delaware alumnus, and grew up in Pennsylvania. Was sort of on UConn's radar last year, and was briefly mentioned in the recent Pitt search.
Tim Murphy - Extremely successful Harvard HC, and a former coach at Cincinnati. Was briefly mentioned with Penn State last year. Was considered to an extent in 2000 during the search that led to Greg Schiano, with requisite flirting with Mark Whipple. Again, Rutgers is highly unlikely to look through the FCS ranks, but he is another name who could merit consideration. But then again, Mike London did turn around UVA.
Pat Flaherty - Another name from Sargeant. Flaherty was the offensive line coach at Rutgers in the eighties under Dick Anderson.
John McNulty - Former Rutgers offensive coordinator is as well-regarded as Cignetti as a top pro-style offensive mind. Reportedly is interviewing with Schiano for the offensive coordinator job with the Bucs though.
Raheem Morris - BK mentioned this on Twitter. Hey, what if Rutgers and Tampa made the ol' switcheroo? Morris grew up right in Irvington, and attended college at Hofstra. He wasn't a very good NFL coach, but did a swell job as an assistant, and sometimes NFL washouts can play better in the college game. The way his NFL tenure ended has to raise a few red flags though, with a big losing streak, and players quitting on him.
George O'Leary - He's simply too close to retirement, with UCF crashing this year not exactly helping matters. Ran a clean program at Georgia Tech with a lot of success, but Central Florida has had loads of off-the-field issues. Could see him at Syracuse a few years back, but can't see him here.
Bud Foster - He simply is not leaving Virginia Tech for any reason. He will be their next head coach after Frank Beamer.
Jeff Hafley - Ace recruiting wunderkind is a must-keep for the next head coach, but the head gig himself? Possibly one day, but Rutgers is hardly in a position to pull a Dabo Swinney here.
Greg Toal - Are you out of your freakin' mind? The current Don Bosco coach had accomplished everything he possibly could at the high school level. Therefore, the next step should be a FCS program like Fordham. Not a BCS conference job in Rutgers. Recruits would be following him like the pied piper, but no team will likely try a jump like this ever again after the Gerry Faust experiment ended in disaster at Notre Dame. Even Todd Dodge was a disaster at North Texas. If he wants to pull an Art Briles for a few years, and learn the college game as an assistant before getting a head job, that's one thing. This would just be too much though, even if Dan Hurley seems to know what he's doing as the new basketball coach at Wagner.
Joe Susan - Long-term Schiano assistant who just left to coach at Bucknell. Susan was a skilled New Jersey recruiter under Schiano, but Bucknell is a very small program, and most of Susan's experience is at the FCS level. Not a realistic candidate.
Tom Bradley - This is not the Rutgers of old, were Sonny Werblin would simply push to hire Dick Anderson on Joe Paterno's recommendation. Trying to be a satellite of Penn State only brought Rutgers to ruin, and that was before the program was tainted by the worst scandal in the history of college football. There is not any indication at all that Bradley had a hint of what was going on, but that's besides the point. This just can't happen. Defensive coordinator? Sure, but he will never be a head coach in college thanks to Jerry Sandusky. By the way, the same goes for Penn State DL coach Larry Johnson.
Charlie Weis - Well, he did grow up ten minutes from Rutgers Stadium in Middlesex, and always mentioned about how Rutgers was his dream job (tm). Even with Kansas in a better conference, he could well be tempted by the chance to go home. Campaigned hard for the Rutgers job in 2000, and couldn't even get an interview (which seems weird in retrospect, even considering how things ended at Notre Dame.) Yes, his tenure in South Bend imploded quite spectacularly, but expectations aren't as high here, and Notre Dame is a very hard job. Plus, he was continually crucified by the national media for comments that wouldn't even raise eye brows in New Jersey. This certainly won't happen, but his name is at least worth mentioning considering how some local media will always push for anyone with ties to Bill Parcells. Does have the advantage of being a gifted recruiter and offensive mind. He is just super-stubborn, is too loyal to bad coaches, and can't find a decent defensive coordinator to save his life.
Bill Lazor - One of my favorite offensive coordinators in FBS. Basically the same coach as Cignetti and McNulty, so if you think either of those should be involved, throw this one into the mix as well. Not that there is any indication that he is a candidate at all. Certainly a candidate to watch for future openings through, considering how well he's done at UVA.
Greg Roman - Former Stanford offensive coordinator grew up in South Jersey. Luring him away from the 49ers will be tricky however.
Not on your life
Glen Mason - Infamously turned down Rutgers in 1995, leading to the Terry Shea disaster. Was a candidate at New Mexico a few months back, but is simply too far removed from the game to jump back into a FBS job. NJ native, who has quite the reputation for being a nasty negative recruiter.
Ted Cottrell - Perennial candidate at Rutgers, the long time Scarlet Knight assistant never got a fair shake even when he had a decent career in the NFL. Has been out of coaching for a few years no.
Tim Brewster - No, no, God no. From Phillipsburg, and considered one of the single best recruiters in NCAA history. Campaigned for the job in 2000, and thankfully did not get it. One of the single worst FBS head coaches of all time. Should not, and will not, be considered under any circumstances.
Darrell Hazell - Briefly an assistant under Schiano before bolting for Ohio State, where he did a great job as a position coach. Just took over the Kent State job. If this were a few years in the future, he could build up some steam ala Cristobal, but as of now the timing just isn't right.
Mark Mangino - Reportedly getting back into coaching as an assistant with Bob Stoops. A more than solid coach who won at a traditional doormat, but he brings far too much baggage for a program that wants to avoid generating bad headlines.
Want an early prediction? Tim Pernetti's MO, again, has been to flirt with big names before hiring more of a mid-level type with head coaching experience. It wouldn't be a shock if a few mystery candidate names from BCS conference schools come out of the ROLODEX OF DOOM in the next few days, inevitably looking for contract extensions and such. Pernetti will listen, but not to the extent that he ordinarily could. Rutgers needs a coach, and Cristobal and Addazio are the names that immediately coming to mind in terms of both means and opportunity.