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Stop the illusion: Rutgers is not a Big Ten football team

Rutgers continues to show that their football program is not worthy of being in the Big Ten.

A few Saturdays ago, I found myself watching Rutgers take on Northwestern in Piscataway. To say the 2018 season for the Scarlet Knights has been disappointing would be an understatement. With a 1-6 record at the time, Rutgers was on the verge of another losing season, and there seemed to be no end to the misery in sight.

The misery continued as the Rutgers season ended with a hard-fought but a frustrating 14-10 loss to Michigan State on Saturday. The loss put Rutgers at 1-11 with a 0-9 record in Big Ten play to finish the season. To say the Scarlet Knights are nowhere near where head coach Chris Ash thought they would be would be fair to say.

Over the years, I have written about how Rutgers did not belong in the Big Ten and how their entry into the conference was a money grab by both the school and the Big Ten. Now four years into this “partnership,” Rutgers has not improved and is considered the doormat of the Big Ten. They are a school that teams like Ohio State and Michigan salivate playing. Those schools know that they will be able to pad their stats and scrimmage against the equivalent of a JV high school football team.

When Pat Hobbs became Rutgers athletic director in 2015, one of his first hires was Ash, a highly touted assistant coach from Ohio State. The thought was that getting a coach with experience and buzz like Ash would open the floodgates of New Jersey recruits back to Rutgers. Not since Greg Schiano was the Scarlet Knights recruiting New Jersey well. Hobbs believed that Ash had the cachet that the school needed after the dumpster fire that was the Kyle Flood era.

After three seasons under Ash, the Scarlet Knights are 7-29 including a 3-24 mark in conference play. The overall record of 7-29 equates to a .194 winning percentage. That winning percentage is the lowest for any coach in the 149-year history of Rutgers football. With all of this, Ash is not on the hot seat and will return in 2019 according to However, what do you expect when Ash has a fully guaranteed five-year contract? What athletic director would fire a coach with two years remaining on a contract and then go out and sign another coach?

Over the last three years, Rutgers has not had one player that moved the needle nationally. Gone are the days of Ray Rice, Mohamed Sanu and others who made a name for themselves on ESPN. What quarterback in the last three years has developed under Ash and his revolving door of offensive coordinators? (nine in nine seasons, three in three Ash years) Defensively the Scarlet Knights consistently allow big plays and tons of yards to almost everyone, including 55 points to even worse off Kansas earlier this season.

When Rutgers moved to the Big Ten, everyone knew it was a bad idea. The Big Ten wanted to get into the New York market, and Rutgers wanted to make some money. Years into this, the Scarlet Knights are becoming a laughing stock around the country. Rutgers should be in a conference like the American or even Conference USA. But not the Big Ten or any Power 5 conference. They do not have the infrastructure, the facilities or the capabilities of being in a conference that large. If they tell you otherwise, they are not truthful.

It’s easy to kick a team when they’re down after a tough season but you have to be honest about the situation. There is nothing about Rutgers that shows that they will win three games in 2019, let alone become bowl eligible. It is time for Pat Hobbs to cut his losses, fire Ash and start over again. What is there to lose in doing that? It’s not like you are stopping some upward trajectory. This program is stagnant so blow it up. However, please stop the illusion…

Rutgers is not a Big Ten team.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow writer Jason Cordner.
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