Is Greg Schiano in the mix for Rutgers job? ‘Anybody who can help Rutgers football be competitive and win conference championships is a candidate for this position’

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Early Sunday afternoon, Rutgers mercifully pulled the plug on the Chris Ash era in Piscataway after three-plus seasons and just eight wins.  Almost immediately, speculation turned to Greg Schiano, the head coach who made Scarlet Knights football relatively relevant earlier this century, as a potentially attractive successor.

Monday, in his first public comments since Ash’s firing, athletic director Pat Hobbs was asked directly by nj.com if Schiano is a candidate for the job.  Hobbs’ response?

Anybody who can help Rutgers football be competitive and win conference championships is a candidate for this position,” Hobbs said.

The Rutgers AD declined to say Schiano’s name, but added: “I’m looking for the very best coach who will make Rutgers football competitive and compete for Big Ten championships. That’s why I came here. I want to go to a Rose Bowl. I want a coach who I believe is capable of making us competitive on the field and competing ultimately for Big Ten Conference championships.

In addition to Schiano, Butch Jones and Jim Leavitt were mentioned as potential replacements. “No,” Hobbs stated when asked if he had contacted anyone regarding the opening, before tackling that topic with a bit more depth.

“And I’ll repeat that because I know there’s been reports out there of agreements and other things,” the AD started. “I have had no conversations with anyone about the permanent position of being the head football coach at Rutgers University.”

In 11 seasons from 2001-11, Schiano went 68-67 as the head coach at Rutgers.  In the seven-plus seasons since Schiano left for the NFL, the Scarlet Knights have gone 35-56; in the 17 years prior to his arrival in Piscataway, they went 67-114-2.

After leaving Rutgers, Schiano spent two decidedly unsuccessful seasons (7-9 in 2012, 4-12 in 2913) as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Schiano served as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2016-18 before being replaced as part of the post-Urban Meyer staff shakeup by new OSU head coach Ryan Day.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.