So here we are again. Part 3 in an apparently annual series I didn't want to be renewed. Here's Part 1 and Part 2 for those just joining us. You'll notice similar themes. Almost as if nothing has changed... I'll start off bluntly.
Chris Ash, who is good dude, is not the guy for Rutgers Football and we need a new head coach.
“Building a Program.”
ENOUGH with the idea of, "it takes time to build a program, look how long it took Schiano." This is a demonstrably false equivalency I see made time and time again. I need to stress very strongly that the Rutgers Football program is ALREADY built. Building a program involves establishing a presence, having known imagery, amassing fans, gathering support, getting the program name out there further, and ultimately being built in a way that, for example, a bigger conference would come knocking for said team to join, if not in one already. That has all happened to Rutgers. Rutgers may not be as built as other programs, but people need to stop pretending that we’re this... oh, I don’t know, FIU type school trying to establish itself in the FBS. Rutgers is built. In the recent to modern College Football world we went from the Big East playing other built programs like Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, West Virginia, and others, to the Big Ten Conference (yeah, yeah AAC for one year, doesn’t negate my point).
When a program is built it doesn't get unbuilt by losing—it becomes a doormat. There's a huge difference. Purdue, Indiana, Illinois. Built programs. College Football fans know their names and they have a presence, but they have been doormats for a long time. Rutgers Football was built up partially by Greg Schiano and had a CFB presence from 2005-2014. Now Rutgers Football is simply, and disappointingly a doormat. The only thing that needs to be "built" is the win record. And, logically, we should all know that the program was built because of the fact that Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference. Regardless of the very real money and market-focused reasons behind Rutgers' addition to the Big Ten, the conference would absolutely not have added an unbuilt program, and you all know that. We were the built program in the NYC Metropolitan area. So enough of the, “building a program takes time,” merit-less argument already, from the fans and the coaches. What we need is to win and stop being a doormat.
We’ve HAD Patience
During the Iowa vs Rutgers game the commentators had the NERVE to say Rutgers fans “have to be patient.”
As IF we haven’t been patient. And amazingly patient too given the fact that the recent, but now fading memory for many Rutgers fans is still ripe with bowl games. In year four of Chris Ash's tenure, if he was truly the coach we need, Rutgers fans should be looking at almost EVERY team in the conference as one we can at least compete with because the team should have given us faith that we can. But no, we're looking for three maybe four wins against UMass, Liberty, Boston College (which I don't think we will get) and maybe a lower level Big Ten team. WHAT is the point then??
This weekend’s performance against Iowa was PATHETIC. Absolutely pathetic and there is no way any logical, reasonable person can pick apart that game and arrive at the conclusion of, "Yep. Chris Ash is still the coach to get to a successful, winning Rutgers Football team." We have the same problems yet AGAIN. An offense with genuine areas of talent that's on the field for moments and unable to get anything done, and a subsequently gassed defense that, while also talented, becomes too tired to perform. This all points to Ash and also to the ever prevalent idea of the past few years that Ash is just not head coach material at this brutal level of college football. Chris Ash is 8-30. 8-30!!!!
Well Under a Baseline
Our team is not in a good state nor is it on its way to one, that much is clear. A Rutgers Football team in a good state should give every Rutgers fan reasonable hope that we can compete with most opponents and go bowling, with solid wins over lower and mid-level B1G teams, with potential for a surprise upset opportunity most seasons. Which we have ALREADY HAD IN THIS CONFERENCE.
For some reason I now find myself reminding not just opposing fans of Rutgers' first season in the Big Ten, but Rutgers fans as well. I remember that 2014 season incredibly well. You want to know what happened? I'll list it.
- 7-5 main season.
- 8-5 overall with a dominating bowl WIN over ACC opponent North Carolina
- Went TOE-TO-TOE with Penn State in a heartbreaker loss that in spite of the pain I would take a million times over the performance we had Saturday
- Beat Michigan
- Beat a Mike Leach coached Washington State at an away opener
- We established ourselves as not at the bottom of the B1G East with huge comeback wins over Indiana and Maryland.
The occurrences of the above list are not exceptional examples of college football. It should be a baseline. It should be the least the fans of any team in a major conference should expect given the money and exposure. If your team is NOT achieving this baseline it is for one reason and one reason alone—your coaching staff suckS.
Last night USC played #23 Stanford. Clay Helton and Chris Ash are high up on various oddsmakers lists for coaches in danger of being fired this season. After game two guess which coach clearly looks like he is trying fight that? I'll give you a hint: USC shocked ranked Stanford and Rutgers couldn't score a touchdown... AGAIN. I am sick of these blowout-shutouts that have become a staple of this program. Like, @ people who still support Ash, you do know that Rutgers has been shut out more times than all Big Ten teams combined and more than any FBS team since 2016, right? You know that reflects incredibly poorly on a coaching staff and is downright embarrassing to the program, right?
And yes, non-Rutgers fans reading this, there is in fact a large enough group of Rutgers fans who still somehow support Ash even after this Iowa game. I checked.
Also, as predicted, that UMass game meant nothing for forecasting the rest of this season—rather, it showed us a lot about where we actually are. That slow start and being behind UMass to come back for only a 48-21 win when, by the way, UMass got clobbered by Southern Illinois this past weekend already showed that Rutgers is not ready for the rest of this brutal season and that in Ash’s fourth year we are going to see more of the same and will continue to be dragged down further.
Right now this all falls on Pat Hobbs, who I think has been a great AD for Rutgers overall, but his Ash hire and insistence on keeping him as long as he has when it was clear in his 2nd, and honestly his 1st year, that he was not the coach we needed is going to be a huge dark mark on Hobbs' tenure. And yes, I recognize that higher level administrators at Rutgers like the President and Board of Governors are also responsible, but Hobbs made the hire, and Hobbs ultimately makes the decisions for Athletics, and he has continued to have, “full confidence in Chris Ash.” Meanwhile, Chris Ash has put Rutgers so incredibly far behind when, as just one example, Maryland, the team we joined the conference with, is having what looks to be an outstanding season ahead with a brand new coach; and they’re currently ranked 21. When’s the last time Rutgers was ranked? If you're a Rutgers fan and you look around at other teams’ progress and don’t get envious and angry, and continue to INSIST for some reason that Ash is still the guy, you are, quite frankly, delusional or knowingly lying to yourself and others.
I see some claiming around social media that I and others just “love to hate Ash.” No. You know what I actually love? Rutgers. My allegiance to and love for Rutgers will always trump any feelings I have for one person at the helm of a thing at Rutgers. If that person is not good for a thing at Rutgers, as has been shown for Ash with Rutgers Football, then I do not support that person. I gave Ash a chance, like I do everyone, and he has not lived up to ANY the expectations he came in with. Simple as that.
I become incredibly depressed whenever I think about the impending poor performance of Rutgers Football in the, OUR 150th Anniversary season of College Football. An anniversary that, given how linear time and years work, shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Yet, it seems our leaders never even tried to place Rutgers in a position to be good for it. I wrote "Rutgers didn't prepare for its own 150th Anniversary" earlier this year and I still stand by every word in that piece and now that the season has started I feel it even stronger. This is on all of Rutgers' administrative leaders and Rutgers fans should always resent them for this. The next major CFB anniversary is the Dodransbicentennial (175th) in 25 years. I will be 50, some will be dead, and CFB as we know it may not even be around. We blew it. The ball wasn’t just dropped, it punctured a hole through all earth layers straight to the core. And then we have those genuinely awesome throwback uniforms to celebrate this season that we’ll probably also wear for a loss against Minnesota... what a tribute, and what a damn shame.
Additionally, four years of Ash is going to have another type of fallout. Rutgers Football is now going to have been bad for a full generation of college students. Freshmen to Seniors. That's an entire generation of students who never saw Rutgers win big, and will likely not develop a major affinity towards Rutgers Football which tends to happen with bad teams across the country. Take a look at Vanderbilt for example whose stadium was 75% Georgia fans for their season opener. Also, as a personal aside, Rutgers is about to have an entire generation of marching band members that will never experience a bowl game (I went to three in my 2012-2016 Rutgers career and they were amazing). This lack of winning will undoubtedly cost Rutgers donation money in the future as there is a direct correlation between athletic success and alumni support. Therefore, if you have alumni that didn't become team fans to begin with (and there are already cultural problems in Rutgers and New Jersey that make this hard) you’re effectively throwing away a huge amount of support. Also, Rutgers being awful at football is costing Rutgers money NOW. Season tickets sales were already poor this year, so imagine the season ticket sales if Ash is still around next year coming off of probably bad 2019 season. The fanbase is becoming tired, fed up, and their interest is waning, and I don’t blame them. Ash's buyout is WORTH IT. Just DO IT ALREADY. Sure, wait til after the season, so the buyout is reduced, I guess, but he cannot continue to drag Rutgers Football to new lows in 2020. I assure everyone there will be no hard feelings, his buyout is a few million thanks to, for some reason, a contract extension to 2022 made in 2017 when Ash had just come off a 4-8 season.
Rutgers and Schiano are O V E R
I’d like to also express as deeply as I possibly can that Schiano is not the answer, please stop saying this. In case any of you forgot he up and left Rutgers for “greener” NFL pastures and him leaving is arguably the reason we are in this whole sucky football situation now. I thank him for what he did and don't want him back. And for those who want Schiano back at Rutgers, aside from pure nostalgia and his name, please in the comments below provide your exact well-researched reasoning why you think he would be successful again, at Rutgers, in the current CFB landscape, after not having been a head coach of any team since 2013. Please.
Rutgers is not in an “anyone but Ash would be great,” situation. We are actually in a quite specific, unfortunate, and dire situation of the next coach better be THE GUY or we genuinely risk being a perennial doormat. Whoever our next coach is, it better be someone who can actually lift us up out of this impossible hole or we’re doomed.
I want to be wrong. I want this write-up to be premature. I want someone to be able throw this piece back in my face two months from now. PLEASE, I do. I want Rutgers to take these next two weeks, this bye before the Boston College game, and make amazing, out of this world adjustments and come out blazing. But when has this team under Ash ever proven to be capable of doing that? My early season fed-up write-ups of the past two years reflected the season well before it came to a close, and I expect this one to as well. And even if they do come out and beat Boston College, then maybe Liberty (I don’t expect us to beat any conference teams this year based on a simple look around, but hey #ILLINUTGERS 2019)... is 3-9 (maybe 4-8) really what we’re going for in year four of this head coach? It sure as hell shouldn’t be. The bar is a bowl game. That’s the only way I’ll be proven wrong.
I love Rutgers. It's an amazing place, an amazing place to go to school, an amazing place to be an alumnus/alumna of, and an amazing place to be fan of. Rutgers deserves an amazing football team. We don’t deserve the suffering and pain that has come with this team’s performance of the past few years. I think at the very least all Rutgers fans can get behind that.