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Rutgers Football Head Coach Chris Ash Returns Scheduling To Big East Roots With Latest Move

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The school announced they were dropping UCLA and adding Syracuse for 2020 & 2021 schedules

Syracuse v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Good bye Rose Bowl, hello Carrier Dome. In a move that NJ Advance Media’s Keith Sargeant reported as a possibility last September, Rutgers has officially cancelled its two game series with UCLA in 2020 and 2021. It was first confirmed on Thursday afternoon by Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman.

There is no denying that paying a $500K termination fee is a lot of money to cancel a series that was agreed upon when Greg Schiano was still the head coach of Rutgers. Sargeant did examine the costs associated and why the move still makes sense financially. While playing in the Rose Bowl against UCLA was already marked on many fans’ calendars for 2020 as a destination road trip, current head coach Chris Ash decided to bring the schedule back to the program’s former Big East roots. First reported by James Kratch of NJ Advance Media, Rutgers announced soon after the news broke about cancelling with UCLA that those two games are being replaced with former conference rival Syracuse.

“Returning the Rutgers-Syracuse series, which has a long history will be exciting for both fan bases,” said head coach Chris Ash. “With our non-conference schedule, we have focused on adding games that showcase great football in this region.”

While it’s disappointing Rutgers will not play a high profile national opponent in UCLA, it’s refreshing that Ash is embracing a return to regional scheduling for non-conference games.

The head coach has been criticized in the past for not fully embracing the past history of the program, but he has made two moves this off-season that indicates that’s changing. First was the hiring of John McNulty as offensive coordinator last month, bringing back the most successful Rutgers play caller in modern history. Now, Ash has scheduled future contests with two former Big East rivals, first with a four game series with Boston College and second a two game series with Syracuse.

After Ash’s predecessors, Greg Schiano and Kyle Flood, opted for west coast opponents like Fresno State, Washington State, Washington, and UCLA, the current head coach has shifted the future non-conference schedules significantly. Now that the Big Ten switched to a nine game regular season, in addition to arguably playing in the most difficult division in college football, Ash clearly has a different philosophy. He did inherit other future regional games with former Big East foes Virginia Tech and Temple, but by adding Boston College and Syracuse, it’s clear he believes that is the right direction to take moving forward.

Although fans have complained about past home games against FCS schools and future games against the likes of Liberty and Texas State, the strength of schedule by playing in the Big Ten East is very difficult for a rebuilding program like Rutgers. This past season, even with Morgan State and Eastern Michigan on the non-conference schedule, Rutgers still finished with the third most difficult overall schedule out of 130 FBS schools.

Here is a quick look at the past two seasons of non-conference opponents for Rutgers since the Big Ten went to a nine game schedule, as well as the next six seasons of future non-conference schedules, which have been mostly designed by current head coach Chris Ash.

2016: At Washington, Howard, New Mexico

2017: Washington, Eastern Michigan, Morgan State

2018: Texas State, At Kansas, Buffalo

2019: UMASS, Boston College, Liberty

2020: Syracuse, At Temple

2021: At Syracuse, Temple

2022: At Boston College, At Temple

2023: Temple, Virginia Tech, Ohio

One more opponent needs to still be added for the 2020 through the 2023 seasons. Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Kansas State are also on future schedules dating as far ahead as 2031.

The reality is that with the latest move to play Syracuse over UCLA, Ash is setting up less taxing road trips, while tapping into former rivalries that give Rutgers a more realistic chance to win in the short term future.

Here is a full look at the next four season schedules for Rutgers Football:

2018

Sept 1 Texas State

Sept. 8 At Ohio State

Sept 15 At Kansas

Sept. 22 Buffalo

Sept. 29 Indiana

Oct. 6 Illinois

Oct. 13 At Maryland

Oct. 20 Northwestern

Oct. 27 BYE

Nov. 3 at Wisconsin

Nov. 10 Michigan

Nov. 17 Penn State

Nov. 24 At Michigan State

2019

Aug. 31 UMass

Sept. 7 At Iowa

Sept. 14 BYE

Sept. 21 Boston College

Sept. 28 At Michigan

Oct. 5 Maryland

Oct. 12 At Indiana

Oct. 19 Minnesota

Oct. 26 Liberty

Nov. 2 At Illinois

Nov. 9 BYE

Nov. 16 Ohio State

Nov. 23 Michigan State

Nov. 30 At Penn State

2020

Sept 5 Team TBD

Sept 12 Syracuse

Sept 19 At Temple

Sept 26 At Ohio State

Oct 3 Illinois

Oct 10 At Purdue

Oct 17 Indiana

Oct 24 Nebraska

Oct 31 At Maryland

Nov 7 BYE

Nov 14 Michigan

Nov 21 At Michigan State

Nov 28 Penn State

2021

Sept 4 Temple

Sept 11 At Syracuse

Sept 18 Team TBD/OPEN

Sept 25 At Michigan

Oct 2 BYE

Oct 9 Maryland

Oct 16 At Indiana

Oct 23 Ohio State

Oct 30 At Illinois

Nov 6 Wisconsin

Nov 13 At Northwestern

Nov 20 Michigan State

Nov 27 At Penn State

Poll

Do You Like The Scheduling Shift From Pac-12 Opponents To Regional Foes?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Yes
    (83 votes)
  • 20%
    No
    (52 votes)
  • 30%
    Yes, adding Syracuse & BC makes the most sense
    (79 votes)
  • 17%
    Yes, but I’d like to see SEC or Big 12 opponents in the future
    (46 votes)
260 votes total Vote Now