Just four games into the 2019 season, Rutgers Athletic Director Pat Hobbs has pulled the plug on Chris Ash, firing the team’s head coach after three years and change.
Offensive Coordinator John McNulty also was let go Sunday afternoon.
Rutgers is just 1-3 on the season, dropping Big Ten games to Iowa and Michigan by a combined 82-to-0. But deeper than that, the Scarlet Knights have lost 14 straight Big Ten games, and 16 in a row to Power 5 schools.
The interim head coaching job will go to Nunzio Campanile, the team’s tight ends coach who had a prior successful run as head coach at Bergen Catholic, one of North Jersey’s parochial powers with a national profile.
“We appreciate Chris’s dedicated efforts on behalf of our football program, our department and our University,” said Hobbs in a statement released to the media shortly after 1:30 pm. “This change is especially difficult because of the steadfast commitment that Chris and his family have made to our student-athletes. Progress has been achieved in many areas, but, unfortunately, that progress has not been realized on the field of play. As such, it is in the best interest of the program to make a change.”
The university said in a statement that a national search for a new head could would take place, “with additional details forthcoming.”
Typically, head coach Chris Ash would meet with the media around lunchtime on Monday’s to preview the team’s upcoming game. The university’s statement said Campanile would meet with the media at noon Monday; those are expected to be his first public comments since Sunday’s firing of his boss.
Rutgers says the term’s of Ash’s and McNulty’s contracts would be honored, “exclusively using department-generated funds.” For the remaining two years and change on Ash’s contract, that would be about $8.5 million dollars through 2022. McNulty has one year left on a three-year pact and would be owed less than a million dollars.
One Internet report by Brett McMurphy of Stadium, reported that a decision on firing Ash was officially reached two weeks ago “when the Board of Trustees met to finalize and approve financial responsibilities.”
Campanile is expected to be a candidate for the job on a permanent basis. Greg Schiano expected to also be a possible successor. It was Schiano who resurrected the Scarlet Knights program in the early- to mid-200s, consistently bringing RU to bowl games, but not without enduring some trying lean years of his own in his first several seasons. He would bring instant credibility and buzz to a program where fans have become apathetic.
Other names mentioned by fans and media in recent weeks as speculation about Ash’s job status swirled on social media include Buffalo’s Lance Leipold and Boston College’s Steve Addazio. Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi, Bob Surace of Princeton and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State also could draw interest.