Schiano bolts Rutgers, betrays recruits

Greg Schiano’s hasty exodus from Rutgers to the NFL caught his star-studded recruiting class completely off guard.

“We’re in total shock right now,” said Brian Brodie, whose son, Ryan, is the top-rated offensive lineman in New Jersey.

“We just sat with Coach Schiano last Sunday and he reassured us that he was staying. I think Ryan may want to open his recruiting back up.”

Thursday, as Penn State held a memorial for its recently deceased coach of nearly 46 seasons, Schiano, a former Nittany Lions assistant under Joe Paterno, reminded people that loyalty is little more than a marketing slogan when it comes to recruiting.

Schiano, 45, left Rutgers to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — without a word to either the media or to Rutgers recruits who had verbally committed to the class of 2012.

“The hypocrisy of college football knows no bounds,” CBS Sports Network recruiting expert Tom Lemming said.

“The funny thing is, Rutgers was on its way to having their best recruiting year ever.”

On Wednesday, Ryan Brodie, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive tackle from Long Branch (N.J.) High School, held a news conference to announce that he would attend Rutgers. Two Scarlet Knights coaches, offensive line coach Kyle Flood and linebackers coach Robb Smith, were in attendance.

Less than 24 hours later, Rutgers was holding its own news conference to announce that Schiano had accepted a job with the Bucs. Athletic director Tim Pernetti, a childhood friend of Schiano’s, said he was not at all blindsided by the maneuver, and that “it was absolutely handled the right way.”

Tell that to J.J. Denman.

A 6-6, 310-pound offensive lineman from Fairless Hills, Pa., Denman originally verbally committed to Penn State. Then Paterno was dismissed in November.

Denman next pledged allegiance to Wisconsin, only to see two assistant coaches who were most involved in recruiting him accept jobs at Pittsburgh. A first team USA Today All-American, Denman decommitted from the Badgers and verbally committed to Rutgers.

“We had a visit planned to Rutgers for tomorrow [Friday] night, actually,” said Denman’s mother, Denise, whose son learned of Schiano’s departure from sources outside Rutgers. “I feel bad for the kids, actually.”

National signing day, the first day on which recruits can sign letters of intent to accept a scholarship, is Wednesday. With Rutgers’ long-term coaching situation in limbo — assistant coach Kyle Flood is the interim head coach — recruits such as Brodie and Denman must reassess their decisions.

“It’s almost unprecedented, leaving this close to signing day,” Lemming said. “Only Butch Davis [who left Miami for the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 29, 2001] cut it this close, but Miami is the kind of program where the incoming recruits are from the same area and are already close. This could be disastrous for Rutgers.”

Schiano, a Garden State native, arrived in New Brunswick in 2001 and transformed Rutgers from a national laughingstock into a perennial bowl-eligible team. A few years before he was hired, the Scarlet Knights lost their spring game to a randomly cobbled group of alumni. In the past seven years, Rutgers has finished with a winning record six times, including an 11-2 mark in 2006.

Pernetti, who appointed Flood interim coach and named himself a member of the football staff in order to be able to communicate with recruits, insisted that his message to them is “the program you committed to will be the same as it is today.”

What value do those words have?

“Loyalty’s a big thing with these coaches when they speak to you,” the elder Brodie said. “It’s a business. You have to wonder sometimes where you’re sending your kid.”