The Rutgers University football team is 7-1, its best start in six years, and is doing it with a first-year coach that is getting paid a third of his predecessor.
The Scarlet Knights, who beat Princeton in the first college football game in 1869, are competing for the Big East conference championship and the berth in a top-tier Bowl Championship Series postseason game that goes along with the title.
They are doing it under former Rutgers assistant Kyle Flood, who was promoted to head coach on Feb. 1 when Greg Schiano left to coach the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At $750,000 a year, Flood is the lowest paid coach of any public school in the conference whose contracts can be obtained under open public records laws.
“If you are placing this on a value meter, it’s off the charts,” former Denver Broncos offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst David Diaz-Infante said in a telephone interview. “Flood got his shot to become a head coach, and the school saved a bundle by paying him commensurate with his experience.”
Flood will receive $750,000 in salary this year, less than Louisville’s Charlie Strong ($2.3 million), South Florida’s Skip Holtz ($2 million), Cincinnati’s Butch Jones ($1.7 million) and Connecticut’s Paul Pasqualoni ($1.6 million). Syracuse, Temple and Pittsburgh aren’t subject to open records laws requiring contract terms be disclosed.
Schiano, who never coached the team to a conference championship in 11 seasons, made $2.2 million in salary last season, according to the school.
The school also sold Schiano university land to build a home, gave him an $800,000 no-interest loan to pay for construction and then forgave $100,000 of the mortgage each year. There was a balance of $300,000 when he resigned, which he has until the end of January to pay back, the school said.
Schiano took the Tampa Bay job Jan. 26, five days before high school players could formally commit to colleges. Flood, 41, who had been on Schiano’s staff since 2005, was promoted four days later. Schiano signed a five-year deal worth around $15 million, the Star-Ledger reported. Tampa Bay is 4-4 this season, in second place in the National Football Conference South Division behind the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers wouldn’t make him available to be interviewed for this story. Earlier this season, he told reporters that he was proud of the Scarlet Knights and the coaches.
“They’ve worked very hard to put themselves in this position and I’m confident there’s nothing that’s going to get in their way,” he said.
This season, Flood’s team reeled off seven straight wins before losing to Kent State on Oct. 27. The Scarlet Knights are home against Army (2-7) tomorrow and will wear helmets with stars and stripes logos to honor the military. The New Brunswick, New Jersey, university is tied with Louisville for the conference lead and is No. 23 in the BCS rankings.
In addition to his base salary, Flood can boost his compensation with bonuses for on-field performance and academic achievements.
The team’s six wins already qualify the Scarlet Knights for a non-BCS bowl invitation, which would pay Flood an additional $25,000, plus $10,000 for a win. That bonus increases to $50,000 for a BCS bowl and $25,000 for a victory.
He can earn another $100,000 if Rutgers wins its first Big East title outright and $50,000 for sharing the title. Flood will receive additional bonuses for being named Big East Coach of the Year ($25,000), National Coach of the Year ($50,000), winning 10 games ($25,000) and finishing in the Top 25 of the Associated Press or Coaches’ Poll ($25,000).
“We felt, and continue to feel, that we offered Kyle fair market value for a first-time head coach,” Pernetti said in a telephone interview. “Greg didn’t start out making what he did in the end, either. He had to earn it. In the end, his success was rewarded. We will always pay the fair market rate for head coaches.”
Rutgers qualified for its first bowl game in 27 years in December of 2005 and rewarded Schiano with a seven-year contract extension through 2012. The contract increased his pay to $875,000 from $516,000.
The school said Pernetti was speaking for the athletic department and wouldn’t make Flood available to be interviewed for this story. Flood went to high school in Queens, New York, and was an assistant at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and the University of Delaware in Newark before joining Rutgers.
While incentives are part of all coaches’ contracts, Flood’s are less than other coaches in the conference. Flood stands to earn $100,000 for winning the conference; South Florida’s Skip Holtz can earn $200,000. Where Flood will receive $25,000 for winning Big East Coach of the Year, Louisville’s Charlie Strong will receive $50,000.
The last time the school promoted an assistant from their staff to head coach was Frank Burns in 1973, and he became the most successful coach in school history (78-43-1 in 11 seasons) including a perfect 11-0 season in 1976.
After this weekend’s game at High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers travels to play Cincinnati (6-2, 2-1 in Big East) and Pittsburgh (4-5, 1-3 in Big East) and then returns home for the season finale against Louisville (9-0, 4-0 in Big East) in what could decide the conference championship and automatic BCS invitation.
Diaz-Infante said Rutgers still has Schiano’s imprint. One of the advantages in hiring Flood is that Schiano’s former assistant kept key members of the staff, its football language and its vision of what it means to be a Scarlet Knight football player.
“He has a very similar vision and value system that Greg Schiano had in terms of playing great defense, running the football, and a certain amount of toughness that he wanted to bring to the program,” he said. “They have a clear identity of who they are.”
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