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The Ignominy of Rutgers

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1. public shame or disgrace.

Breaking News: Previously, the deepest man made hole on the planet was the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It’s 9 inches in diameter and is 40,230 feet (12,262 meters) deep. It took almost 20 years to reach that 7.5-mile depth and is about half the distance or less to the mantle. However, on September 22, 2018, the head coach of Rutgers Football has broken that record! In just three years since he inveigled his way into a Big Ten head coaching position, Coach Chris Ash, who hails from the simple state of Iowa, has broken the record for deepest hole dug on Earth. Far larger of a hole than 9 inches, Chris Ash has managed to fit the entirety of the Rutgers Football program to lows that were thought to be impossible. Truly a remarkable feat.

All the Signs

The most clarity I’ve had in the past 3 weeks of watching this team is the realization of all the signs that this shameful season was inevitable. Signs that I, and other former Ash supporters ignored. That first year full of blowout shutouts glares at me now as a clear indicator that Ash had much farther to go than most head coaches. It wasn’t a sign of our talent differential like we fooled ourselves into believing, and that “once Ash has a full team of his talent we’ll be good.” No. Teams with far less talent than Rutgers achieve constantly. That year was a sign of our coaching staff’s inabilities. Two years later here we are with embarrassing program low losses to Kansas and Buffalo of the MAC Conference.

I’m currently typing this article with the Rutgers Buffalo game updating on my computer via Google. At the end of typing the previous paragraph, I paused and said to myself, “you know, let me slow down with writing this and not get carried away. Maybe Rutgers is turning the game around.” The score read 28-6, Buffalo. I came back to writing this article.

The Stakes are too High

The Rutgers Football program is currently at its absolute lowest point of this century and it is NOT comparable to when Schiano took over this program in 2001. You will often see what’s left of Ash’s defenders say that, “Schaino went 2-10 his first year, and 1-11 in his second, then look what happened!” Rutgers’ modern situation is absolutely incommensurable to that. First of all, the natures of the conferences Rutgers was in then and now are on entirely different planes. The Big East of the early 2000’s while solid, had nothing on the product that the Big Ten Conference has at the top, and particularly in the Big Ten East, the division Rutgers was unfortunate enough to be placed in. Additionally, Ash is not going to do what Schiano did simply because he lacks the same recruiting savviness that Schiano utilized to land players like Ray Rice, Mohamed Sanu, Tom Savage, Kenny Britt, Devon and Jason McCourtey, Mike Teel, and Brian Leonard among others. Each one of those players was either from NJ, NY, or PA, a talent loaded region that Rutgers through Schiano had a good grip on. That is not the case anymore. To be clear, this is not me saying, “Bring back Schiano.” No, I believe his time with Rutgers is over. This is me saying, that we need a Schiano-like situation, and Chris Ash and the current Rutgers situation is NOT IT.

If Rutgers stays this current path, in an age of the top college football teams placing themselves in whole atmospheres above teams like Rutgers, then we will be the doormat of the Big Ten Conference for the next 25 years. That destiny is manifesting currently. The stakes right now are immeasurable.

Oh wow, this score at this moment of my writing is now 35-6, Buffalo.

A Hard, Fast Fall.

I went to a bowl game 3 out of my 4 years while I was at Rutgers. That last bowl game was the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit where we beat North Carolina with ease and secured an 8-5 2014 season. That was our first season in the Big Ten. Oh what could have been. It doesn’t even feel that long ago in actuality, but football-wise, it seems like over a decade ago. An era where I would have felt 100% confident for the team with out of conference schedule games like Buffalo, Kansas, Eastern Michigan, and when I knew Rutgers could handle themselves and compete against teams like Washington State, Indiana, and Maryland. To think, just two seasons after our last bowl game. Rutgers would lose 78-0 to Michigan, 58-0 to Ohio State, 39-0 to Penn State, and 49-0 to Michigan State. Rutgers fans, prior to and at the beginning of our Big Ten entrance were confident in our team. Games were enjoyable, we filled our stadium and traveled for the post-season. It’s so hard to convey to a Big Ten Conference audience that only knows this modern, execrable Rutgers how truly staggered Rutgers fans are at the current state of Rutgers Football.

A Look Around

Taking a look around at other recently hired head coaches and one thing stands clear. They’re in a whole other league than Ash. Dino Babers, hired at Syracuse the same time Ash was hired at Rutgers has already had a signature win defeating Clemson in 2017. Though he went 4-8 that season, just as Ash did, what has he done for Syracuse in 2018? Oh yeah, they’re 3-0 with a win against Florida State.

Let’s take a look at Lovie Smith who took over what many believed to be the worst overall team in the Big Ten. Illinois, though they still lost by a lot, just went toe to toe with Penn State, even leading them at one point for a whole half of a game. Yeah, Rutgers led Buffalo by 3 points for all of 5 minutes, if that.

Maryland is in the midst of a heinous scandal that I’d never trade for football success, but even with the suspension of their head coach, DJ Durkin, and all that happened, Maryland is a team whose on field product is enviable. Durkin, like Ash, was previously just a coordinator from a Big Ten team.

Minnesota Football with PJ Fleck who hasn’t fully reached his projected potential is also in a place I’d rather be as a Rutgers fan right now.

But of course, Rutgers drew the head coach equivalent of the short straw with Ash. All we’ve gotten out of him is a giant psych out from his “improved 2017 season” and gifs where he looks sad on the sidelines (Also, I’m convinced Rutgers’ improved 4-8 2017 season was the result of Jerry Kill, not Ash)

Oh wow, just checked the score again as I’m writing and Rutgers got a TD, now 35-13, Buffalo. Maybe I should scrap this whole article.

Who’s to Blame?

The blame is a chain and you may be surprised what I think.

Mike Rice —> Rutgers President Bob Barchi —> AD Julie Hermann —> Kyle Flood —> AD Pat Hobbs —> Chris Ash

“So wait, Zuzu, you think that the disgraced Rutgers basketball coach who hurled basketballs and expletives at players started Rutgers Football’s downfall years later?”

Yes. Here’s why. Strap in.

It’s because of Mike Rice’s morally repugnant behavior that we lost Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers leader chosen to be scapegoated at the time of this scandal. Tim Pernetti was the AD who facilitated Rutgers’ addition to the Big Ten at a time when football-wise, things were going solid for the program. Pernetti, no doubt had the program’s best interest at heart and even though he was not 100% perfect, he thought his handling of the Mike Rice scandal was sufficient, but once the scandal hit the national spotlight, someone high in Rutgers Leadership had to go in order to satiate the masses. It certainly wasn’t going to be the President that Rutgers brought in very specifically to oversee a very crucial merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey (UMDNJ) and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (but our academic rankings shot up because of this, so... yay? Mission accomplished?)

After we lost Pernetti, we hired Julie Hermann an absolute clownshow and unlikable Athletic Director previously from Louisville with coaching abuse scandals of her own. She was unable to galvanize the fanbase like Pernetti and the fanbase’s spirits never fully lifted from the loss of Pernetti and there was no time to either because just one year into her time at Rutgers everything descended further into chaos. Which brings the next person in the Rutgers Blame Chain, Kyle Flood.

I will say right now that Kyle Flood is a better COACH than Chris Ash. 100%. His recruiting was lackluster and also the source of his firing, but I stand firm in my belief that if Kyle Flood was still our coach, these embarrassing seasons would not have happened. For that reason, Kyle Flood amasses most of my hatred and blame in all of this because if not for his recruitment of criminals and sketchy, straight up comical behavior and actions which led to his firing, and Rutgers currently being on NCAA probation, I would not be writing this article right now as Rutgers loses to Buffalo. Julie Hermann ties into Flood because, as Athletic Director, she is supposed to oversee the department and ensure everything is running smoothly and ethically and she failed on this front immensely. This resulted in both her and Kyle Flood being let go by the university immediately after the Rutgers vs Maryland game, a loss that killed our bowl chances, on November 28th, 2015, my senior day in the Rutgers Marching Band (Yes. I am still bitter). And yet again, Rutgers President Bob Barchi somehow avoids the axe.

Rutgers would go on to hire Pat Hobbs as Athletic Director, whom I think is the best AD Rutgers has had and is only in this blame chain because he made a terrible call in taking a chance on a co-defensive coordinator from Ohio State to be the new head coach of a team shook by scandal (but he did hire Basketball Coach Steve Pikiell, so credit where credit is due). Obviously, the last person in the Rutgers Blame Chain is Football Head Coach Chris Ash, who conned his way into the position with his inhuman stoicism that probably conveyed, “I know what I’m doing,” when in actuality, he clearly does not. Ash’s mostly mediocre coaching staff has culminated into this 2018 season. I’ve also seen things which suggest that Ash has lost the locker room which adds more fire to the situation. This is no longer the Ash Era, we are in the Ash Error.

What Now?

So that is how I think we got here. Unfortunately, regardless of who is to blame, we’re here now. A crucial decision needs to be made by Rutgers that is motivated by where we want to be in 5-10 years. There’s two places to go, doormat or up. And no matter how hard anyone wishes for it to happen, we’re just never leaving the Big Ten. We’re STUCK here, and yes it does feel stuck, not like the godsend/life raft it was supposed to be. On that note, a lot of Rutgers Fans also point to money as the source of our problems. “The full share, the full share! We can hire better assistants, better facilities!” You know who else doesn’t have the full share of Big Ten revenue? Maryland. Maryland is about to be 4-1 after today. You know what programs will never even have the amount of money Rutgers will get and are doing great regardless? Dozens.

The youth of the team is non-factor in all of this, as well. A young, talented team, which I believe Rutgers possesses can be coached up to perform better than the garbage product that Rutgers is putting on the football field. It happens all across college football in every season.

Until a decision is made to correct our course or we somehow mystically improve with the current coaching staff, Rutgers will remain in this deep hole of purest ignominy.

My Rutgers career was the best four years of my life and Rutgers University is the most special place in this world to me. Like all of college sports, RU’s teams put on for Rutgers, they carry and represent that name competitively, with Rutgers Football being the largest and most mainstream carrier of that Rutgers brand. Until the team reflects the same specialness that I associate with the Rutgers name and that I experienced in my four years, I will be embarrassed. I am absolutely appalled and ashamed right now to be a Rutgers Football fan.

We have fallen so hard.

Oh hey, look Buffalo won, 42-13.

Sorry guys, I don’t even have a funny or apt gif to end this article with because nothing about this is funny.