Rutgers thought it had found the perfect replacement for Greg Schiano on Monday, but Florida International coach Mario Cristobal decided to turn down the job offer.
Many expected Cristobal, the fifth-year head coach at FIU, would accept a job offer to replace Schiano, who jumped to the NFL to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach position, but The New York Times reported that Cristobal decided to stay in Florida.
Cristobal's decision to stay put at FIU puts Rutgers in a precarious situation only two days before National Signing Day. Schiano had put together a strong recruiting class, but all of that could go to waste if Rutgers doesn't hire a head coach by Wednesday.
It is crucially important to get a head coach by Wednesday, Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. Guys in this class are starting to look around and have other options. If there is no coach (by Wednesday), I don't think there is going to be a signature for some of these kids.
Rutgers has the best recruiting class in the Big East, according to Rivals, but could stand to lose a few of its marquee recruits. Farrell mentioned linebacker Steve Longa, who has scheduled visits to Boston College and Maryland, and four-star wide receiver Leonte Carroo as two recruits that could look elsewhere.
Farrell thought that Cristobal would have been a good coach at Rutgers, but one of the most important things for any coach is keeping some of the remaining staff. Both committed players and players still on the fence -- uncommitted five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton is the crown jewel -- want to see some of their recruiters kept by the next head coach.
The top remaining candidates, according to The Times' Pete Thamel, are interim head coach Kyle Flood and Arizona Cardinals assistant John McNulty. Keeping Flood could conceivably help retain the majority of the class, especially given the late timing of Schiano leaving for Tampa Bay.
I still think the majority of the class will sign because they want to be there, Farrell said. (If they hire someone before Wednesday) it could be good timing because it was late and these kids didn't have a lot of time to change. A lot of kids don't want to wait after signing day.
Losing a well-known coach like Schiano only to hire Flood won't exactly excite the fanbase, but keeping the majority of the recruiting class through Flood is likely the best case scenario. Coaches around the league know that Rutgers is desperate to hire a coach, but likely can't afford to pay $2.3 million per year for a coach like they were for Schiano.
That conundrum significantly limits their pool of candidates and could be why coaches like Cristobal and Temple's Steve Addazio have pulled out of the running for the position.