Schiano’s late departure leaves Rutgers in a bind

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Speculation about possible candidates from outside almost immediately started with Florida International coach Mario Cristobal, who, like Schiano, is a former University of Miami assistant.

For now it’s up to Pernetti, Flood and the assistants left behind to hold together the recruiting class.

“It’s just a bad situation because of the timing,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said.

According to Rivals.com, Rutgers had 17 non-binding verbal commitments before Schiano’s departure and at least two more blue-chip prospects from New Jersey _ defensive lineman Darius Hamilton from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey and receiver Devin Fuller of Old Tappan High School _ were strongly considering going to Rutgers.

Farrell said most of Rutgers‘ top committed players had told him that they were contacted by other programs not long after news broke about Schiano. Many of the recruits were lining up last-minute official visits to other schools, he said.

The fact that a coach could jump from Rutgers to the NFL is a testament to the turnaround Schiano orchestrated. Pernetti even said that Schiano took over the “worst program” in the country.

The three previous coaches went 67-114-5 from 1984-2000, graduation rates were low and the facilities were hardly at the Division I-A level.

Rutgers won three games in Schiano’s first two seasons and 12 in his first four. The Scarlet Knights went 7-5 in 2005, setting the stage for a startling breakthrough. Rutgers finished 11-2 in 2006, ranked 12th in the nation.

Miami in 2006 and Michigan in 2007 tried to hire Schiano away, but he turned down those offers and moved into a newly built house _ that the university paid for _ about a mile from the football stadium.

“I’ve had several opportunities over the years and none of them felt right,” Schiano told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., as he left Rutgers‘ football facility Thursday night. “This time, this one felt right.”

The Scarlet Knights haven’t gotten back to that ‘06 level, but they also haven’t returned to the dark days. Rutgers slipped to 4-8 in 2010, then bounced back to go 9-4 this past season with a victory against Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl.

The remarkable rebuild did come with a price, though _ and not just the $2.35 million annual salary Schiano’s latest deal was to pay him through 2016.

Rutgers expanded and renovated its stadium at a cost of $102 million. The school had hoped to raise the money through private donors, but fell short. Rutgers scaled back plans for the expansion and issued bonds and borrowed money to complete the project.

That combined with the fact that the school had to cut six varsity sports in 2006 _ including men’s tennis and crew _ led many in the state to question whether the school had overcommitted to football.

But there were also plenty of fans thrilled with the results on the field, and it looked as if Schiano was setting up the Scarlet Knights to contend for Big East’s titles for the next several seasons.

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