The reason you are reading this is due to Greg Schiano.
My first football game was Nov. 9, 2006, when No. 15 Rutgers beat No. 3 University of Louisville. Soon after this, I regularly started attending Rutgers football games with my father, and it became inevitable that I would attend the University.
The man responsible for this ultimate Rutgers win was Schiano, the coach that was responsible for raising Rutgers football to national attention and landing Rutgers in the Big Ten Conference. In the early hours of the morning yesterday, news broke that Schiano was coming home. Now, I normally write about politics, but bear with me as I go through the long saga of Schiano’s return and why he is the only fit for Rutgers. But do not worry: I will touch on politics.
Earlier this year, Rutgers dismissed Chris Ash after a disastrous stint as head football coach. Soon after, the University began a three-week-long negotiation with Schiano. But, a little more than a week ago, disaster struck, negotiations broke down and hope left Rutgers.
The birds stopped singing and the flowers died. Rutgers fans revolted, called for the head of Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs, canceled season tickets and one donor went as far as to write Rutgers out of his will. Things changed as politicians and boosters alike forced Hobbs back to the table. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) himself got involved.
Murphy and his staff have been in contact with Schiano and seem to have been a part of the successful return. I probably will never write this again, so take note: Thank you, Murphy. But why is Schiano's return a cause for celebration even if you do not care about football?
Well, for one thing he is a proven winner. He is able to recruit in New Jersey, where it is notoriously hard to get high school players to stay home. Better players mean better play on the field, and this is good for the school at large. When a school wins in college sports, student enrollment and donations rise. A big game on ESPN is a better advertisement than any billboard, television advertisement or advertisement on the side of the bus.
Furthermore, when someone is thinking about donating to a school, it probably will not be because the English program is so good – it will be because of more tangible successes such as athletics. Professor-types generally grumble about the money spent on athletics, but the point still stands that what is good for athletics is good for academics. When alumni look back at their time in school, they are more apt to remember major moments like sporting events than getting that "A" in Expository Writing.
Rutgers also has an obligation to history to maintain a respectable football program. As you well know, Rutgers is the birthplace of college football and ought to maintain a good program for that reason. Traditions are good for their own sake – they connect us to our past. Our football program has connected us to great moments in our history. Even the great Paul Robeson, who Rutgers takes every opportunity to honor, got his start playing ball for the University.
There are two knocks against Schiano: his financial demands and his connection to Pennsylvania State University football. Frankly, none of his money demands are ridiculous. Some have clutched pearls over his demand of a private jet, but this is not for him to fly to Vegas. It is for him to recruit players, and it is not out of the ordinary for college athletics.
The other is a slander against Schiano stating he was aware of the child abuse that took place at Pennsylvania State University. This debunked notion cost Schiano the chance to coach at the University of Tennessee. But, after all the investigations that came out of that horrible event, nothing shows Schiano knew about the child abuse. If you are concerned about what kind of man Schiano is, just ask Eric LeGrand.
I will admit I am biased: I love Schiano. He was the head coach when I fell in love with Rutgers. So, he holds a special place in my heart. Some may find it odd to be so worked up about the head coach of a college football team, but college football matters. It connects people to their school and to their family.
Some of my fondest memories are watching college football with my dad. My best friends I have met at Rutgers, and we bonded over Rutgers athletics. Along those lines, on that magical night in 2006, I still remember walking around the stadium after the game seeing old men sitting and crying, simply filled with joy.
This is why football matters. I firmly believe Schiano is the only man who can bring this back to Rutgers.
Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.
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