With news on Wednesday afternoon that a deal for Greg Schiano to return to Rutgers isn’t dead after all, despite negotiations having broken down a few days ago, one thing is clear. Something changed and aside from the intense public pressure that mounted after fans, donors, and former players took to social media to voice their anger and pull future financial support, it most likely took a major player to get involved.
Calls, emails and tweets were directed at New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in the past few days at a seemingly high volume. With previous reports that athletic director Pat Hobbs and President Robert Barchi were aligned in not wanting to move forward in a deal to hire Schiano, as well as several Board of Governors, it makes sense to conclude that Murphy must have intervened in some way.
Remember, this is New Jersey, a state that can never seem to escape politics. It was on public display earlier this week when two former Governors sparred. Chris Christie ripped Schiano’s reported demands of a private jet in negotiations, while Richard Codey fought back, stating the republican was spreading lies about his demands. Brent Johnson and Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media cover the entire ordeal here.
Hobbs once served on Christie’s administration, so it wasn’t surprising to see him come to his defense. Codey, like Murphy, are democrats and have been adversaries of Christie for years. Add in that Murphy was involved in the courting process with Schiano initially, it would seem likely he stepped in and called for Hobbs, Barchi and the BOG, which the Governor appoints members of, to figure it out with Schiano.
Money talks and aside from those who vowed or already cancelled their season tickets, five figure pledges were being revoked and big donors appeared to be serious about walking away from Rutgers. For a university’s athletic department that has been operating in the red for years now, it’s logical to think that the Governor would be concerned with that type of development.
My point is that the Rutgers administration must close this out now. They’ve reached a point of no return. Fair or not, they have little leverage here. They overplayed their hand and with seemingly not much of a back up plan either. It’s deeply upsetting, but sadly not that surprising.
Hobbs, Barchi and certain members of the BOG grossly underestimated the loyalty that a large majority of the Rutgers fan base has for Greg Schiano. Aside from the many benefits his return would bring, unifying that fan base is near the top. Instead, news of the deal falling through brought long suffering fans to a breaking point. Hobbs even said at the beginning of the search that 10,000 season tickets sold generates $4.5 million in revenue. No hire would come close to reaching that type of demand for tickets other than Schiano. Fan support for Rutgers football, as well as the entire athletic department, would be at an all-time low in the modern era if the administration doesn’t hire Schiano.
Terms need to work for both sides, of course, and what Dave White wrote weeks ago about Schiano and the athletic department needing to co-exist in a more balanced way this time around is absolutely necessary.
What upset me the most in all of this was the lack of foresight of Rutgers to realize the gravity of the situation. Get in a room and hash it all out, come to an agreement that all parties are happy with and show not only the fan base, but the Big Ten and all of college football that Rutgers is seriously committed to building a winning program. The term “same old Rutgers” is a phrase we all want to retire, but seems to rear its ugly head at the worst times. Prove it is no longer the case.
I’ve said since the beginning there is no perfect hire. Schiano is not a savior, but he is without a doubt the best option for Rutgers in its current situation. Will he one day bring the Scarlet Knights to the Rose Bowl, as Hobbs stated was the goal when the search process began? The odds are against it, but the goal of this hire should have always been about restoring respectability to Rutgers football. At the end of the day, that’s what the overwhelming number of fans want. The current state of the program is an embarrassment and that blame falls on the administration. Fans want to be proud of Rutgers football once again.
The good news is that Rutgers has a second chance. My simple plea: don’t screw this up again.