I remember seeing that slogan on a sign whenever I took the old Pennsylvania Railroad back and forth to college...an out of state school of course. New Jersey may be rated the best place to raise a child in the US, but every September the recently graduated high school class joins a tidal wave of 18-24 year olds who leave the state to pursue their education anywhere but in New Jersey. Successive recessions dating back to the Telecommunications Crash of 1999 and 9-11 have stemmed the tide slightly, but the truth everyone involved in secondary and higher education in the state knows is that the Garden State exports a much higher percentage of their college age students than any other state in the union. And that has been true for at least the last 50 years. The University of Delaware and the state colleges in Virginia have balanced their budgets with the tuition/room and board checks of New Jersey parents; even as New Jersey athletes have been recruited to the rosters of football and basketball powerhouses (and a number of the lesser lights) all across Division I. Persuading those athletes to play for "State U" is the perpetual challenge for Rutgers.
If You Build It...Will They Come?
The Scarlet Knights joined the Big East for football in 1991 and have compiled a 117-151 record over that time. The program under Greg Schiano (11 years, 68-67) turned around a dreadful first decade of BCS football (two coaches, 40-80) to produce seven bowl teams in his last eight seasons in New Brunswick. His successor, Kyle Flood, took a 9-3 team to the Russell Athletic Bowl and lost. The men's football team has consistently earned post season play under Schiano and Flood, not so for the men's basketball team. Though the program earned a Final Four berth under Tom Young (239-116, 0.673) in 1976, the next 37 years and six coaches yielded four bids -- the last in 1991, four years before joining the Big East in all sports.
Rutgers Athletic Directors going back to Fred Gruninger have vacillated between candidates with Rutgers/New Jersey roots (Kevin Bannon, Fred Hill, Craig Littlepage, Bob Wenzel) and those from outside of the Rutgers community and state (Tom Young, Gary Waters, Mike Rice for example). While not uniformly successful (see Mike Rice), the outsiders have produced better records, compiling a combined 362-242 (0.599, four NCAA bids) while the homies combined for a 257-335 (0.434, two NCAA bids) record.
Mike Rice's termination, the seventh consecutive termination going back to Tom Young, put the program back on the market. Lacking a sitting Athletic Director (Tim Pernetti was also fired/resigned as a result of the Rice Scandal), interim AD Carl Kirschner decided to first fill the basketball coaching vacancy before finding a successor to Pernetti. The field appears to have narrowed to another insider/outsider pair, with NBA assistant coach Eddie Jordan, captain of Rutgers' 1976 Final Four squad opposite La Salle University head coach Dr. John Giannini. Jordan, strongly endorsed by NBA Commissioner (and Rutgers graduate) David Stern has connections in the NBA and over eight years of head coaching experience (with three different franchises) at the pro level, he has yet to manage his first collegiate program. Dr. Giannini, a native of Chicago educated at North Central University (Napierville, Illinois), North Texas and the University of Illinois, has 23 years of head coaching experience with stops at Rowan University (Glassboro, New Jersey), Maine and La Salle University. His specialty is building programs. Jordan is the favorite to be named later this week.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports that Rutgers has indeed hired Jordan.
Who Put On the Brakes?
My earlier projection of 50-60 now appears too high. While I believed the number of low and mid-major openings would drive the total to the 50+ range, the absence of a "domino effect" among the high-major schools applies a braking effect on the number of openings created to date. The UCLA firing for example brought Steve Alford of New Mexico to the Bruins, but the Lobos promoted assistant coach Craig Neal to the first chair, effectively snuffing the expected chain reaction initiated by Ben Howland's termination and limiting the domino effect to two openings total created by that termination. Firings at power conference schools -- Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers, Southern California, Texas Tech and UCLA so far this cycle -- should have the kind of multiplier effect that would create between 6 and 11 additional openings, accounting for between 12 and 17 total vacancies. Even though Rutgers is still open and the chain reaction from Southern California has not concluded, the total number of openings generated from those six original terminations is four, a very small multiplier effect that translates into 10 total vacancies (rather than the 12-17 anticipated). The multiplier effect is so small that only three more assistant coaching vacancies have been created to boot. True, Rutgers may trigger another head coaching opening or two, but if the Scarlet Knights opt for Eddie Jordan, that hire will have no effect on head coaching in Division 1 programs. Even if the Scarlet Knights turn to Dr. Giannini, the multiplier/domino effect overall will be still be smaller than expected. Given the total of vacancies to date is 41 (with 29 hired through April 16), expect no more than about 55 before the first Fall Practice.