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OTB Staff thoughts on the Chris Ash Era & coaching search

Our contributors share their thoughts on the past couple of days

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Rutgers at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our contributors share their thoughts on the decision to dismiss Chris Ash and John McNulty this past Sunday, as well as what’s ahead for the future of this program. Let’s kick things off here.

Patrick Mella: I really don’t wanna see anyone lose their job. Yes, financially Ash and his family will be fine. Another program will certainly give him a chance in some capacity. So honestly my feelings are kinda mixed. I really thought I’d be ecstatic when this day came but a part of me feels bad for the guy. With that being said, it was a change that needed to be made. If they were going to cut ties with Ash at the end of the season, which seemed likely, then there’s really no reason to delay the inevitable. This is a results driven business and at the end of the day, there was little, if any progress in the four years Ash was at the helm.

Going forward, I’m probably in the minority when I say Schiano would not be my first pick to replace Ash. Maybe it’s the old saying that the sequel is never as good as the original. I just believe they need a new face, a new identity, not necessarily a familiar one. It also leads to unfair comparisons to former teams, and set in my opinion, unfair expectations. That’s not to say I don’t think Schiano couldn’t be successful here but he would not be my first pick. Campanile is an interesting candidate. A Jersey guy with strong relationships at the High School level. He’s going to get a shot from here on out to make the case for him to lead this program. It’s going to be a busy and interesting next six months for this program.

Nick Kosko: First, when the news broke at 1:37 PM on a Sunday, I was stunned. Like most, the thought of Chris Ash losing his job at Rutgers was a foregone conclusion. But during the season? After four games? Consider me surprised. Athletic Director Pat Hobbs pretty much put a stop to the bleeding by making this move now. Unfortunately, maybe a friendly casualty of this move is OC John McNulty. While the offense didn’t thrive under him, he is still the best coordinator in program history after his first stint. His legacy as a coach in Piscataway should not be tarnished.

I had some thoughts on Rutgers and Michigan’s “state of the program” on Saturday morning, pregame before they took the field in Ann Arbor, and I invite you to listen to them. Obviously, Rutgers was in a more dire state than Michigan, but it was interesting to bring both perspectives together in about a 15 minute monologue. I’ve been highly critical of Ash over the last season and a half and he certainly doesn’t deserve the misery, but he couldn’t cut it as a head coach in a nearly un-winnable situation. As far as Greg Schiano is concerned, I really don’t see any other option in the immediacy. I’ve seen some interesting candidates names thrown out there, but now that Rutgers is at least cleaned up off the field, they need the respectability on the field. The man who did it first, Schiano, can at least give positive vibes to the fanbase, administration, and most importantly the players. He’s not going to come in 2020 and somehow bring this team from the basement to a Big Ten title within a few years, but Rutgers fans and the athletic department would certainly be pleased with six to eight wins a season, the occasional upset, and maybe a bigger named bowl associated with the Big Ten. Remember when going to bowl games was the norm in New Jersey? We’d kill for that now. The program cannot be looked at as a joke. Schiano’s legacy would not change if he couldn’t turn the program around for a second time, but he at least deserves a shot. Make it cool again to stay home and build something memorable.

Adam Ross: I’m in agreement that since this decision was a foregone conclusion at the end of the season, making this move now is the right one. On a recruiting level, while there is definitely uncertainty with who will lead this team moving forward, recruits no longer see the Rutgers coach in their living rooms as a lame duck. I don’t know exactly who should take over this team in 2020, but I believe it should be someone with head coaching experience with a history of strong recruiting ties to a particular area. Not even THIS area, just give me someone who holds some clout in a geographic square mileage that can go in a pluck out a few kids each year. When Coach Schiano took over, he was a defensive coordinator at a major school, but it took 5 years to see progress. We don’t have that kind of time anymore.

With that said, I’m also in agreement that Schiano should not be our main target. He’s 9 years removed from his tenure in Piscataway, which surely diminishes his name brand in recruiting the tri-state area. He was run out of Knoxville before even stepping foot on campus, and left the Patriots staff also before his job began. I would have no faith that he should be the man to pull us out of the ashes at this point in time. Not to mention, his ties to the Sandusky scandal, fair or not, could have a significant negative impact on recruiting and fundraising. He simply is not the household name in Jersey that he once was.

Fred Gaudios: I was watching the Giants game when the first text came in. “Hobbs did it!” was the immediate reaction from my former-tailgate-friends group, because let’s be honest - after the past few weeks of football, really the only question at this point was whether Hobbs would pull the trigger now or later this season. My immediate reactions were (a) relief and (b) hope for the future. I appreciate Chris Ash as a person, and think he’s a classy guy who ran the program without off-the-field distractions, but like Hobbs said in his press release, the results on the field made this an obvious decision. I felt bad for Ash the last few weeks.

As for hope for the future, I appreciate Hobbs’ flexibility given the unique circumstances (this will be the first time he’s fired a head coach mid-season) as well as his willingness to be severe and thorough (i.e., McNulty had to go, too). The timing of this decision cements my confidence in the current athletic leadership. Maybe the interim staff wins a few more games this season; maybe they don’t. Either way, there’s reason to believe it’s a new day in Piscataway!

David Anderson: This is a move that just had to be made, the main reason is that fans would be booing Ash rather than the players during the next few games, but that is not the psychology a bewildered team needs. It’s also not my money. If Rutgers did a little more on offense against Iowa and Michigan I would have liked John McNulty to have more time, but a year and a half was enough considering how good Hobbs’s plan seems to be. You already have seen my thoughts on Greg Schiano. I don’t have a personal favorite yet for the next head coach and will support whoever it is. More to come in future articles, like my love of the triple option, though again that won’t guarantee success either. I like the appointment of Campanile in the interim and the scenarios that could roll into.

Cara Sanfilippo: Whoa, was I shocked when my husband texted me Sunday to tell me that Ash had been fired. As a Rutgers alum, and longtime football fan, I did not see a move this big coming. However, I am impressed by Hobbs decisiveness and believe this was the right decision. I have been lackluster about this season, and was extremely frustrated coming out of the BC game. While I was frustrated at the two guys in front of me trying to start a slurred “Fire Ash” chant, and making us look like idiots in the process, I under the frustration. Ash seems like a nice guy, but his team never seemed prepared, and to me that was the most frustrating part. The kids always seemed confused, and the disheartened looks on their faces broke my heart. That said, I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

In terms of what I want to happen next, I’m not sure, but I don’t want it to be a rash decision. Hobbs has time to do this right this time, and he should mull over who will be the best fit. My father, who is my Rutgers guru and football companion, is all in on Schiano, but I’m still torn. Regardless, given Hobbs track record in other sports, I trust him to make the right choice.

Matt M: It was absolutely the right move, but I was pleasantly surprised at the timing. In college football, perception is reality and the perception of Rutgers is near an all-time low. Without improvement year-over-year, it gets harder and harder to convince recruits to join the program and sell fans on buying tickets. The change needed to be made because not only was there no improvement, but the incoming recruits and fans no longer believed that improvement was coming.

I think Schiano should be the top candidate, but not the only candidate considered. It should be someone with prior HC experience, local/NJ ties, and known for being a strong recruiter. Of all the names thrown out so far, Schiano is the one who checks those boxes the best. Perhaps more importantly, the offensive and defensive coordinators need to meet those latter two requirements as well. In the best-case scenario, Nunzio Campanile’s offense shows some life and he stays on to run the offense next year. For DC, I would love to see his brother Anthony, Chris Partridge, or Fran Brown to really make a splash within New Jersey recruiting.

Aaron Breitman: I’ve written and talked about my thoughts on Ash enough, for me it’s about looking ahead now. We are a couple days into this and with Hobbs announcing Monday that he plans to take his time, I think it’s looking less likely that Greg Schiano is a true candidate for the position. Coaching searches are fluid and can change daily. The way things had been building up to Sunday, I thought it was reasonable to call him the favorite. Now, I’d bet against it happening.

If you think about it, Hobbs likely always wanted to go his own way and while nostalgia makes for a great story, it doesn’t necessarily translate well in reality. I think he will target coaches currently working that have had more recent success and a track record of building programs. I’ll have a more comprehensive list soon.

As for this team as of today, it’s a far more compelling one with Nunzio Campanile in charge. Hobbs changed the narrative overnight and allows fans to rally around this team moving forward. If they come out and play hard against Maryland, perhaps even winning, it should give hope that the rest of the season is going to be interesting and dare I say, even fun. Let’s hope Nunzio, a guy who has worked hard for years to be in this position now, can take advantage and make Hobbs’ decision a lot harder as the season progresses.