Last December, Rutgers men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell recognized that the return of Greg Schiano with the football program was a very good thing, stating “It’s great to have a coach with his leadership and integrity back here at Rutgers. I’m looking forward to the job that he is going to do and the recognition that it will bring to this great university. The more success you have in football, the more I think it helps everyone at the university.”
On Monday, the basketball program earned a preseason national ranking of no. 24 in the AP Poll, marking the first time in 42 years they’ll open the season ranked. In Schiano’s weekly press conference shortly after that news was announced, he was asked if that type of recognition helps the football program. Schiano was clear by stating “I think it does a lot. As you remember when we first got hired, we had a couple of events where we brought recruits to the basketball game,” Schiano said. “You talk about an environment, it is one of the top five in the country. We have our recruits sitting there and they are looking to their left and there is the student section going crazy. And those are going to be your classmates right there. And they are fanatical about what is happening on the court. Those are the same guys and gals that will be sitting in the endzone in the student section.”
Schiano was looking at the impact long term, stating “This virus has throw everything out of whack, but that’s huge for us. And we can be equally big for them if we can get it going, if we can mirror their path.”
He didn’t stop there, as he enthusiastically explained his admiration for the basketball program. “I am a big fan. I love the way our basketball team plays,” Schiano said. “I think they are tough, they are focused, they are intense. I think coach Pikiell is an unbelievable coach. I wish we had a bye week because usually on a bye week, I go watch either Vivian [Stringer] or the men’s team practice. I don’t know if I will be able to do that. Maybe some Monday I will. But I think they really go about it the right way. I am excited for them.”
Schiano saw the benefit of a strong athletic department with many successful programs in multiple sports while working at Ohio State for 3 years and it’s clear he thinks it is possible for that to be the case at Rutgers. In explaining the value of success across the athletic department, Schiano said, “I think great athletic programs feed on each other. And in this day and age, every game is on TV. If you want to watch a game, you can watch it. It’s on their phones, kids can watch it anywhere they want. When the Rutgers brand and that block R is out there and it is having success throughout the year, that is great for everybody.
Specifically, Schiano explained, “It is certainly great for recruiting. That is what we need to do. Recruit the best and keep the best here in our area. That is how you build a program. We are going to do that and basketball is already been a big help and they will continue to be.”
Rutgers fans dream of a day when both football and basketball are nationally ranked programs. While that isn’t the case yet, the job that Schiano has done with the football team this fall has been extremely impressive so far and gives hope that reality is closer than it could have reasonably been expected just a few weeks ago. Of course, Pikiell has made a habit of thrilling the fan base by resurrecting the basketball program and exceeding expectations.
As for now, it is clear that Schiano and Pikiell understand the value that each other’s program has on their own. They are similar in their approach to building a strong foundation and winning culture that is sustainable. The thought of both coaches having long term success at Rutgers is a prospect that is no longer just wishful thinking. The path towards this becoming a reality is clearly lit.