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Schiano to NFL? What's next for Rutgers?

1/26/2012


Stunning news today in NFL and college football circles, as Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is reportedly on the verge of becoming the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On the surface, it seems like an odd choice -- Schiano has never even won a conference championship in 11 years at the helm in Piscataway. This past season, the Scarlet Knights had a chance to clinch a share of the Big East title with a win at sub-.500 UConn on Nov. 26, but instead were manhandled, 40-22.

But if you dig a little deeper, Schiano has accomplished a lot in his tenure. Before his arrival in 2000, the Scarlet Knights hadn’t had a winning season since 1992. His predecessor, Terry Shea, went 11-44 in four years, including 4-24 in the Big East.

Schiano has now taken Rutgers to bowl games in six of the past seven seasons, and the Scarlet Knights have won five in a row -- tying them with Mississippi State for the longest bowl winning streak in the country.

Perhaps even more importantly, in terms of the NFL, Schiano has produced a lot of pro players -- more than 45, according to the Rutgers media guide. That includes Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL’s second-leading rusher this season; San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt, both first-round draft picks; and cornerback Devin McCourty, a former All-Pro who will start for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

In fact, Rutgers is just one of two schools in the country that has five or more players on the rosters of this year’s two Super Bowl teams, the Patriots and the New York Giants.

And, you had to admire the leadership Schiano exhibited in the past 15 months, after one of his players, Eric LeGrand, was paralyzed from the neck down in a vicious collision in a game against Army.

Nevertheless, Schiano would be leaving behind some unfinished business at Rutgers, still in search of its first Big East championship and BCS bowl bid. And it’s a very awkward time recruiting-wise, a week away from National Signing Day.

Athletic director Tim Pernetti would likely be conducting a national search, hoping to make a big splash and build on what Schiano started.

If he makes a poor choice, Rutgers could descend back into Big East and national irrelevance.

Only time will tell.