Sports Columnist Darren Cooper talks about what new Rutgers coach Nunzio Campanile can do for Rutgers.
Darren Cooper, Local Sports Columnist, @VarsityAces
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Chris Ash was fired as Rutgers football coach after three seasons plus four games, athletic director Pat Hobbs announced Sunday afternoon in a press release.
“We appreciate Chris’s dedicated efforts on behalf of our football program, our department and our University,” Hobbs said. “This change is especially difficult because of the steadfast commitment that Chris and his family have made to our student-athletes.”
Hobbs said tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile will serve as the Scarlet Knights’ interim head coach the remainder of the season.
Offensive coordinator John McNulty has also been fired, Hobbs said.
Rutgers will honor the terms of Ash’s and McNulty’s contracts, exclusively using department-generated funds, the school said.
Ash will be owed a buyout of nearly $8.5 million; however, he must make efforts to get another job in Division I or the NFL, and if gets a job as an assistant or head coach, his income from that position gets deducted from what Rutgers has to pay him.
McNulty will be owed a buyout of just over $885,000, also subject to his duty to mitigate.
A national search for a new head coach will take place with additional details forthcoming, Hobbs said.
There figures to be heavy pressure on both Hobbs and the Rutgers’ administration from both Rutgers alumni and fans to rehire Greg Schiano.
Schiano was the Scarlet Knights’ head coach from 2001-2011 before he left to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.
Schiano is currently not coaching after serving as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator the last three seasons under former Buckeye coach Urban Meyer. Ironically, Schiano succeeded Ash as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator.
After he inherited a Rutgers’ program that was in a similar situation to what it is currently in, Rutgers went 68-67 under Schiano, which included an 11-2 breakthrough season in 2006.
Rutgers is 1-3 this season and 0-2 in the Big Ten Conference. It went 8-32 overall and just 3-26 in Big Ten games under Ash. All of those Big Ten wins came in 2017 when the Scarlet Knights finished 4-8 for their best season under Ash.
The Scarlet Knights, after a 48-21 season-opening win over the University of Massachusetts, have lost their last three games by a combined 112-16.
That includes defeats by a combined 82-0 in Big Ten games against nationally ranked Iowa and Michigan. Rutgers was routed 52-0 by Michigan this Saturday at Michigan and hosts Maryland (2-2, 0-1) Saturday at noon.
“Progress has been achieved in many areas, but, unfortunately, that progress has not been realized on the field of play,” Hobbs said. “As such, it is in the best interest of the program to make a change.”
Rutgers has also lost 17 of its past 19 games, which included 11 consecutive losses to end an 1-11 season last year and the final three games of the 2017 season.
The Scarlet Knights have also lost 16 consecutive games against opponents from Power 5 conference opponents. Many of those defeats have been by lopsided margins.
They were also shutout eight times during Ash’s tenure, including a whopping 78-0 home loss to Michigan in 2016.
Rutgers had 21 defeats by 21 points or more under Ash.
Major offensive struggles were major trait under Ash. He had three different offensive coordinators with McNulty becoming the first person to serve as offensive coordinator to begin a season the last nine seasons.
The Scarlet Knights also had a different starting quarterback to begin each of Ash seasons.
Campanile, in his second season on the Rutgers’ staff, was the head coach of nonpublic state power Bergen Catholic from 2010-2017.
Bergen Catholic went 60-28 under Campanile with an NJSIAA Nonpublic Group IV championship in 2017.
Prior to becoming Bergen Catholic’s head coach, Campanile, a Paramus Catholic High School graduate and a 1999 Montclair State graduate, was an assistant coach for 10 seasons at Bergen Catholic’s arch-rival Don Bosco Prep under legendary former Ironmen head coach Greg Toal.
He was the offensive coordinator at Don Bosco Prep his final two seasons there and also was the head wrestling coach and athletic director at Don Bosco Prep.
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz