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Sunday December 8th, 2019 7:38AM

Rutgers hires Schiano to rebuild Scarlet Knights - again

By The Associated Press

Greg Schiano is coming back to Rutgers.

Athletic director Pat Hobbs announced Sunday the university and Schiano have reached a contract agreement, a week after talks to bring back the 53-year-old former Scarlet Knights head coach fell apart.

“The next great chapter for Rutgers Football is about to begin,” Hobbs said in a statement.

The contract must be approved by the schools’ board of governors. It is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the hiring.

Hobbs called the negotiations complex.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to prejudge any action that the Board of Governors may take, but I believe today that Rutgers Football is on the path to greatness,” Hobbs said.

Rutgers had offered Schiano an eight-year contract worth $32 million, but the two sides could not agree on other financial commitments by the school toward improved facilities and infrastructure and both indicated they were ready to move on.

After that news broke last Sunday, Rutgers officials faced a wave of criticism from boosters, fans and former players. Schiano was coach at Rutgers from 2001-11. The Scarlet Knights went to a bowl game in six of his final seven seasons.

Rutgers finished off a 2-10 season, 0-9 in the Big Ten, on Saturday with a loss at Penn State. Nunzio Campanile has been the interim head coach since the firing of Chris Ash five games into his fourth season. Ash went 8-32 in three-plus seasons, including 3-26 in the Big Ten.

After Ash was fired, Schiano was immediately speculated as a candidate to replace him.

Schiano, a New Jersey native, went 68-67 at Rutgers and turned the Scarlet Knights into consistent winners in the old Big East after years of being one of the worst major college football programs in the country. Success under Schiano helped Rutgers land an invite to the Big Ten, and it joined the lucrative Power Five conference in 2014.

After news of Schiano’s return broke, there was a positive response from alumni and former players.

“Welcome back coach @GregSchiano F.A.M.I.L.Y.,” tweeted Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a 2010 game while playing for Schiano.

Schiano left Rutgers in 2012 to become head coach for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his tenure lasted only two years. He resurfaced at Ohio State as defensive coordinator. He had reached an agreement to become Tennessee coach in 2017, but a fan mutiny on social media led the school to rescind its offer.

Some Tennessee fans cited a deposition given by former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, unsealed by the courts in 2016, that alleged Schiano and other Nittany Lions assistants had known Jerry Sandusky had been acting improperly with young boys years before Sandusky was arrested and charged. The claims were never investigated by authorities and Schiano has said he never saw or had reason to suspect any abuse by Sandusky while he was an assistant under Joe Paterno at Penn State from 1990-95.

Schiano left Ohio State after last season when the Buckeyes struggled on his side of the ball, and briefly took a job as an assistant with the New England Patriots earlier this year. He stepped down soon after, deciding instead to take the season off.

Now he’s set to return and facing maybe an even tougher task than the first time around, trying to make Rutgers respectable in the Big Ten.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/APTop25CollegeFootballPoll and https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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