By Steve Politi from NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Greg Schiano is getting his old job back. After a bizarre week in which a reunion that looked like a sure thing died suddenly before it was revived after a stunning fan revolt and a political intervention, a deal was finally struck in the wee hours on Sunday.
So now what?
This is when things will really get interesting. Schiano’s return to Piscataway is one that will be celebrated by most casual fans, major boosters and former players. This was the only logical move from the start given how far the Scarlet Knights have fallen, and given the need to hire somebody who understands New Jersey and can provide a much-needed jolt off the field.
That doesn’t mean that this reunion comes without questions or even concerns. Schiano is a known quantity at Rutgers, but there still are several unanswered questions as he prepares to retake his office in the Hale Center.
Here are nine:
1. WHO IS HIS BOSS?
It was widely believed around Rutgers that Schiano did not want to work for athletic director Patrick Hobbs, and that was before the AD couldn’t lock down the deal after original negotiations were abruptly halted last weekend. Things got nasty.
Will Hobbs survive after prominent boosters called for his job? Even if Hobbs keeps his job, the length and size of Schiano’s contract — believed to be eight years and in the $32 million range — means that the coach holds all of the cards in this relationship. Like most major college football programs, the buck will stop on his desk.
2. WHO ELSE IS COMING WITH HIM?
Or, phrased in another way, is he getting the band back together? Schiano has a group of loyal lieutenants such as Kevin MacConnell, the former deputy athletics director, and a long list of assistant coaches who have followed him throughout his career. The first priority is building a coaching staff, and it is a certainty that Schiano will have a biggest pool from which to spend in Rutgers history. He is likely to lean on more than a few familiar faces.
3. WHAT ARE THE FACILITY GUARANTEES?
This was the final hurdle to clear in getting the deal done. Schiano was obsessed with improving facilities during his first go-around, pushing for the recruiting lounge at SHI Stadium and its $100 million expansion. He had made it clear during his meeting with Rutgers officials that the program’s out-of-date Hale Center wasn’t good enough to compete in the Big Ten. Will it be replaced?
It is likely that his contract includes a guarantee that a field house will be the next facility built on campus — and, to be clear, it is long overdue — by a certain date. But he’ll want more than that. What is his vision now for that physical footprint of the program, and how much can Rutgers pull off in the next few years?
4. CAN HE SAVE THE 2020 RECRUITING CLASS?
With 10 current commitments, Rutgers has the 96th ranked recruiting class in the nation according to 247 Sports. To put that in perspective, Rice is 85th, South Alabama is 92th and a UMass team that Rutgers beat in its opener is 83rd. Rankings are meaningless but, suffice to say, the current recruiting class could set this program into an even deeper hole in the Big Ten.
It is believed that several top New Jersey recruits are taking a waitand-see approach to this hire. Schiano not only needs to make a splash with a big-time player, he has to find prospects to fill the glaring needs all over this roster. With the early signing date on Dec. 20, he’ll barely has time to make that happen. It won’t be easy, but it will be the difference between tacking another rebuilding year onto the process.
5. WHO IS HE TARGETING IN THE TRANSFER PORTAL?
There are few quick fixes available for many of Rutgers’ major problems — Schiano can’t find an entire offensive line in the transfer portal, for example. But he must have a plan to accelerate this rebuild with players from other programs or junior colleges.
That approach has been met with mixed results over the years here, but all too often, it’s felt like the Rutgers coaches have been throwing darts. Schiano has to use his connections and his reputation to rebuild this roster in every way possible before next season. In short, he needs talent, and in 2019, the world isn’t patient enough to let four full recruiting classes come through his weight program beSPORTS fore expecting results.
6. IS NUNZIO CAMPANILE STICKING AROUND?
The interim coach revealed, during a postgame press conference this season, that Schiano had been texting his support throughout the season. That’s a promising sign that the former Bergen Catholic coach will have a role on the staff going forward after holding down the fort in the months following Chris Ash’s early dismissal.
That’s important, because Schiano is also likely to target his brother, Anthony, for a role. The other Campanile is already on staff at Michigan. Schiano is the closer that Rutgers needs on the recruiting trail, but it will be important to build a staff that can begin recruiting — remember this? — the State of Rutgers again.
7. WHAT WILL HIS OFFENSE LOOK LIKE?
Once again, Rutgers is hiring a defensive coach to lead the program. The offense was historically inept under the last one, who switched coordinators and systems three times without fixing the problem. Talent, obviously, is the biggest issue, and that starts with finding a quarterback with the program’s top passer, Artur Sitkowski, in the transfer portal.
Schiano ran a pro-style offense in his last go around, but now the Scarlet Knights are in the Big Ten. Some kind of spread system seems most equipped to counter the size disadvantage this program is constantly battling against. That could mean an unfamiliar face at offensive coordinator.
8. HOW DOES HE ANSWER THE TOUGH QUESTIONS?
Schiano hasn’t given a detailed interview since he abruptly left the New England Patriots before working a single game as defensive coordinator. People in Boston no doubt will want an answer to that one: What happened? That’s only one of the many questions he’ll have when he stands behind the podium in Piscataway to address the media. And that’s only Round 1 of what figures to be a whirlwind media tour.
How did what happen in Tennessee — when a late fan revolt led to an rescinded offer — shape him? Does he believe, at 53, that this is the final stop of his career? Right or wrong, some fans and high school coaches are still miffed that Schiano bolted for the NFL just days from national signing day in 2011. Will he give assurances that he plans to stick around to see the job through this time?
9. HOW WILL HE BE DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND?
People change. It is foolish to think Schiano, now in his 50s, will be the same person entirely that he was when he first arrived in Piscataway in his 30s — and, in some ways, that’s a good thing. That Schiano was a micromanager who often rubbed people the wrong way. Can this Schiano be more of a delegator and less of a my-way-or-the-highway leader?
Rutgers isn’t just a much different place than the university he left behind eight years ago. The entire world is different, with social media, the 24-7 news cycle and college athletes taking great control of their careers. He can’t be the same coach he was the first go-around because adapting to many changes will be necessary to survive and thrive. Is he ready?