PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs dismissed speculation about being close to finding a replacement for Chris Ash as football coach, while conceding the task of turning the Scarlet Knights into a competitive team in the Big Ten Conference is not going to be easy.
Addressing the media for the first time since dismissing Ash, Hobbs said Monday he wants to make the hire by the end of the season. Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile will be considered, along with anyone who can make Rutgers competitive again.
A search committee will whittle down the list of candidates and Hobbs plans to make the final choice after getting opinions and advice from football coaches and consulting with Greg Brown, the chair of the university's athletic subcommittee.
Hobbs said he has not contacted any candidates yet, and when asked directly about former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, said, "anyone who can help Rutgers football be competitive and win conference championships is a candidate for this position."
Ash, who posted an 8-32 record, including a 3-26 mark in the conference, is the first major college football coach to be fired this season. The Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-2) were beaten 52-0 by No. 20 Michigan on Saturday. Hobbs said he was convinced Saturday night the program was not meeting his goal of making substantial progress.
Overtaking a program mired in off the field controversy and undergoing NCAA investigation, Ash cleaned up the off the field issues. However, the former Ohio State defensive coordinator won 2 of 14 games since the start of last season, and 0-11 in the league.
The Scarlet Knights have lost 14 straight Big Ten games and 16 in a row to Power Five teams. Rutgers moved to the Big Ten in 2014.
"We have not closed the gap fully, but this is a great job here," Hobbs said, citing the Marco Battaglia Football Practice Complex, and recently renovated strength and conditioning facility and locker room at the Hale Center built during Ash's tenure. The Rodkin Academics Success Center is being built across the street from SHI Stadium and Hobbs said there's a pledge to build a new team lounge within the next year.
"I think coaches are going to look at this and they are going to say, they made some real investments at Rutgers University," Hobbs said. "Is it an easy job? No, it's not an easy job. Is it a great job? It's absolutely a great job, and I think we are going to get a lot of interest around the country."
Ash was Hobbs' first hire at Rutgers, less than two weeks into the job. Hobbs was named the athletic director in November of 2015 following the ousting of Julie Hermann and coach Kyle Flood following a 4-8 football season that included several arrests and an academic scandal.
"I'm looking for the very best coach who will make Rutgers football competitive and compete for Big Ten championships," Hobbs said. "That's why I came here. I want to go to a Rose Bowl, so I want a coach that I believe is capable of making us competitive on the field and competing ultimately for Big Ten Conference championships."
Even before the move to let go Ash, there was speculation about Schiano returning to Rutgers.
Schiano was Rutgers coach from 2001-11, when it was not in the Big Ten. He led a massive rebuild that took the program from the bottom of major college football to six bowl appearances in seven seasons.
The 42-year-old Campanile is relatively new to college coaching, coming to Rutgers as Ash's running backs coach in February 2018 after building Bergen Catholic into a New Jersey parochial football power from 2010-2017. Prior to that, he was the Athletic Director and offensive coordinator at rival Don Bosco Prep, helping build the Ramsey school into a national football power, coaching future Rutgers quarterbacks Mike Teel and Gary Nova. A native of Fair Lawn, Campanile called this opportunity to lead his home state university "like the Holy Grail."
Now Rutgers must turn its attention to Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten), with Campanile also taking over the offensive play-calling duties for the dismissed John McNulty.
"I know it's not the same level, but I did it for eight years," Campanile said. "I also think that we have a great offensive staff. We have a lot of like-minded people that see things the same way, so while I'm here talking to you, those guys are working really hard at putting things together."
Hobbs hopes it will kickstart the season.
"This season is not over," Hobbs said. "The new season starts on Saturday against Maryland, and so we are really excited about that."