Greg Schiano is well aware of the groundswell of support that helped pave the way for his return to Rutgers. Now he's counting on that same sort of passion to help elevate the Scarlet Knights to college football's elite.
Schiano was formally reintroduced as Rutgers' coach on Wednesday, nearly eight years after he left the school for a failed stint in the NFL.
The program hadn't been relevant in decades before Schiano arrived in 2001 and has plummeted once again to near rock bottom, wrapping up last weekend a 2-10 season that saw coach Chris Ash fired just four games in.
"What just transpired was an incredible effort by our university," Schiano said. "You can't say anymore that Rutgers is not all in. Rutgers is all in. Now it's our turn. It starts with me. Our players, our fans, our boosters -- everybody's got to go all in. Because here's the problem: We entered the Big Ten Conference a few years ago, and the teams that we're looking up at right now, they're not waiting for Rutgers -- 'Hey guys, come on, catch up.' That ain't happening. They're moving. I used to say we're chasing a moving target. Now I'm going to say it this way: We've got to pass a moving target, and those are big targets.
"And it's going to take every single person -- everyone. So yeah, if you've got a lot of money, we need your money. Make no mistake about it. But if you don't have a lot of money, we need you at that Scarlet Walk (with) those kids who battle their rear ends off, we need you there. We need that pact. We need you in that stadium. We need that stadium pact because those kids lay it on the line. And we don't need it -- with all due respect -- we don't need it when we're seventh in the country, fifth in the country, first in the country; we need it right now."
Schiano, who signed an eight-year, $32 million contract, also called on supporters to help boost the program through small gestures such as discussing Scarlet Knights football around the watercooler at work or putting magnets on their cars.
Schiano was 68-67 in his 11 previous season at Rutgers. After winning just nine games in Schiano's first three years, the Scarlet Knights went on to appear in six bowl games in seven years before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lured the coach away. Schiano then served as Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2016-18 before sitting out of coaching this season.
Much has changed at Rutgers since he left. Formerly members of the Big East, the Scarlet Knights now play in the Big Ten, where they have gone 7-45 in league play and have failed to win a conference game in three of the past four seasons. Recruiting in the area will be a vital emphasis for Schiano.
"When we started to win, we became a legitimate choice for New Jersey and New York's best players," Schiano told WFAN's Maggie Gray and Bart Scott. "If I'm a great player, you want to go somewhere where you can achieve your goals whatever those goals are. It's hard to achieve those goals on a losing program but that's where it always comes back to the chicken and the egg. Well, we've got to win to get players but we've got to get players to win. I think it's not only going to take great recruiting, which is critically important, but great development."
Schiano concedes his second attempt at rebuilding the Rutgers program won't happen overnight.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of great coaches, a lot of great players," he said. "We have university support. But I would never ask a player to sit in one of these seats, go down in that weight room, go out on that field if it wasn't to be the very best. That is our goal, and it will never change -- to hoist the national championship trophy and be No. 1 in the country, to be the best."
Athletic director Pat Hobbs said he has similar lofty goals for the Scarlet Knights under Schiano.
"You already know the historic things that he's done," Hobbs said. "We already know his work ethic, his relentless pursuit of excellence. He will rebuild this program to the standard of excellence he set when he was here. He will exceed those past successes, and we will all celebrate together."