What’s wrong with Greg Schiano?
Once the picture of a resurgent program, Schiano was arguably one of the most energetic, demonstrative coaches in all of college football. I can still vividly recall his exaltation when Rutgers pulled off their upset of Louisville, then considered to be a national championship contender in 2006. Watching that game, you would think that Schiano and Rutgers were a perfect match and that we were watching a powerhouse in the making. But you’d be wrong. There’s definite trouble in Piscataway.
In the first half of Thursday night’s game against UNC, a game in which Schiano’s Scarlet Knights got thoroughly outmuscled by Butch Davis’ Tar Heels, Schiano appeared emotionless.
So what happened? How did we get here? Well I offer a couple of explanations:
PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Since beating Louisville, Rutgers has gone 10-7, including two non-BCS bowl wins against Kansas State and the University of Buffalo respectively. A team that was once ranked as high as sixth in the country and appeared destined to become a Big East title contender appears to be headed for mediocrity. Despite marked improvements to facilities, including a $102 million stadium expansion, Schiano’s not recruiting the kind of talent to the State College of New Jersey that Big East foes South Florida and West Virginia continue to recruit annually. Without that talent, as we’ve seen, Rutgers is the fourth of fifth best team in the Big East, a conference not known for being ultra-competitive. Fresh off the heels of an 8-win 2007 campaign, Rutgers appear headed for an 0-2 conference start to 2008 with road games against USF, Cincinnati, Pitt, and West Virginia still remaining on the schedule. Think Schiano’s contract, a deal that runs through 2016, isn’t starting to feel like a prison sentence?
A FALLING STAR
Michigan, Miami, Penn State, Alabama, West Virginia.
All of those schools have reportedly eyed Greg Schiano at one time or another to fill their head coaching vacancies, with the most serious looks coming from Michigan and Miami, where Schiano served as an assistant under Butch Davis.
Schiano passed on all of those offers to stay at Rutgers, a program that he believed he was building into a national powerhouse. Staring down the barrel at a season in which the Scarlet Knights appear likely to miss being bowl eligible, I’m sure Schiano regrets saying the following when he signed that monster extension in February 2007.
“I consider it a privilege and honor to be the head coach at Rutgers and look forward to leading this program for a long time.”
Maybe “long time” is open for interpretation.
Looking at Schiano, calmly talking to senior quarterback Mike Teal after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown (a play that put Rutgers down 31-6 to a UNC team that only beat McNeese State by 8 points at home the week before), you can’t help but wonder if the coach is thinking about how far his stock has still to drop.
Where can Schiano realistically expect to get a job at year’s end, should he or Rutgers decide that his tenure in Piscataway has come to an end? None of the major programs, the ones that once appeared interested in this rising star, have vacancies to fill.
Maybe the reason Schiano seems so unhappy on the Rutgers sideline is that he realizes that he’s stuck, trapped – in New Jersey.