by Mike Pavlichko
Rutgers Interim Football Coach Nunzio Campanile – just 24 hours on the job – is focused on the task at hand: eight more games remaining in the 2019 season.
All the while, his boss – Pat Hobbs, the fourth-year Athletic Director – will be searching for a new head coach, and says he’s open to anyone who “will make Rutgers football competitive, and compete for Big Ten Championships. That’s why I came here. I want to go to the Rose Bowl.”
The bold statement was more a program goal than a projection, and certainly more specific than the “significant progress” Hobbs talked about in the preseason, in terms of what he wanted to see in 2019.
Hobbs addressed the media Monday for the first time since Ash’s firing 24 hours earlier, speaking at a news conference at the Hale Center in Piscataway. It came just moments after Campanile did the same thing as part of the team’s weekly press conference where the head coach typically discusses the upcoming game.
Hear the entire Pat Hobbs press conference at the bottom of this story.
Hobbs said he made the decision to sack Ash Saturday night, after returning from Michigan, where the Scarlet Knights lost 52-0 to the Wolverines, for their 14th straight Big Ten defeat, and 16th straight loss to a Power 5 school. He told Ash Sunday morning.
“I just saw some things in terms of lack of offensive production, my concern about penalties,” said Hobbs. “I think we have more talent in this room and on this team than we were showing in the games.”
Campanile says he will be the team’s offensive coordinator moving forward, replacing John McNulty, who also was let go by Hobbs Sunday. But he doesn’t expect wholesale changes. “I don’t think you can make any major overhauls,” he said. “We basically have five days to get ready for a game.”
After the initial flurry of activity with a coaching change, Campanile says the focus has to get back to football quickly. “We have eight games to go and we have a lot of opportunities in front of us,” he said. “So what’s really been a big part of that is getting (the players) to understand that, and stay focused.”
Hobbs’ focus will be on finding a new coach, and he says his goal is to name one by the end of the season. But who that will be is anyone’s guess.
Rutgers fans have been taking to social media for weeks discussing who they would like to see replace Ash, many even doing so before he’d been fired. There’s a big push by some fans to bring back Greg Schiano, who came to Rutgers in 2000 from Miami – where he was defensive coordinator – and rebuilt the program to the point where it spent a short time in the Top Ten in the AP poll, famously knocking off Louisville in 2006 on national television.
Asked if Schiano would be a candidate, Hobbs replied, “Anyone who can help Rutgers football be competitive and win conference championships is a candidate for this position.”
Other candidates mentioned have been Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi, Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, Lance Leipold of Buffalo, Boston College’s Steve Addazio – whose team beat Rutgers 30-16 two weeks ago, and Bob Surace of Princeton.
Asked if Campanile would be considered, Hobbs repeated, “Anyone who can help Rutgers Univeristy be competitive and compete for conference championships is a candidate for this position.”
Hobbs says no one has told him of any financial limitations on hiring a new coach, despite the fact Rutgers still owes Ash about $8.5 million over two years and change, and another $1 million to McNulty.
Hobbs says there will be no search committee, but he is open to hearing from anyone about who they think they next coach should be. He emphasized he’d like to hear from letterwinners, much like he sought valuable input from former RU baseball standouts Bobby Bronwlie and Todd Frazier when hiring a new baseball coach this summer.
Pat Hobbs addresses the media about the firing of Chris Ash, and the search for his replacement: