PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Longtime Rutgers assistant Kyle Flood is getting his first shot at running a college football program, replacing his former boss with the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers promoted Flood to head coach on Tuesday. The 41-year-old had been a member of Greg Schiano’s staff since 2005, coaching offensive linemen and working his way up to assistant head coach. He became interim coach when Schiano left last week to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching job.
“This search was quick. Very targeted, very precise. We knew what we were looking for,” Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said. “This is not the same job as it was 10 years ago. We’ve built something really special here.”
Flood received a five-year contract with a base annual salary of $750,000 that will increase by $100,000 with each new year. He accepted the job Monday and his hiring became official the day before national signing day, when high school recruits can begin to make their college choices binding.
“What makes you think I’m going home tonight,” he said after a news conference at Rutgers’ football facility.
Rutgers turned to Flood soon after Florida International coach Mario Cristobal passed on a chance to replace Schiano, who went 68-67 in 11 seasons with the Scarlet Knights, turning around a moribund program.
“No matter who you hire, there is always going to be some risk,” Pernetti said.
The athletic director declined to answer questions about Cristobal, wouldn’t even acknowledge the FIU coach was a candidate. Pernetti did say that in the end he felt as if he had two good candidates.
Pernetti made himself an assistant coach over the weekend so he could take part in the recruiting process, and help the staff hold together a class that has been receiving high marks from analysts. Flood’s strong relationships with high school coaches in New Jersey were a plus, but Pernetti insisted he did not make this hire based on saving the class.
“This program is bigger than one recruiting class,” he said.
Flood was emotional on the podium. His voice even started to break up when he thanked his wife and two young children.
“This has really been humbling, going through this process,” Flood said. “The core values of Rutgers football don’t come and go with any one person. That’s how our players live their lives, and that’s what we’re about here at Rutgers.
“It’s an honor to be the coach here.”
Flood, who grew up in New York and played at Iona College in New Rochelle, just north of the city, said he was in his office calling recruits on Monday and didn’t have any time to follow the news that Rutgers was pursuing Cristobal.
He said he doesn’t even remember what time he got a call from Pernetti, who called the coach to his office.
“That’s usually a good sign,” Flood said.
He accepted the job as soon as it was offered, called his pregnant wife to tell her the good news, and before he could make another call, he received a call from a recruit, who had already heard that he’d been hired.
Flood said he didn’t feel as if he had to sell himself to Pernetti as much as provide a blueprint for what he wanted to do with the program.
“I always felt I was a candidate for the job,” Flood said.
He interviewed on Saturday.
“We sat down for a few hours over the weekend,” Pernetti said. “It was about 20 minutes into that meeting, it was pretty clear to me we had somebody that was equipped and that was tied to all the criteria to do the job.”
Pernetti said if he didn’t think Flood was the right person, he was prepared to go into signing day without a permanent head coach.
Flood worked for three seasons at Delaware as offensive line coach and was part of a team that won an FCS national championship in 2003 before coming to Rutgers. His college coaching career began at Long Island University-C.W. Post in 1995 and Schiano gave him his first job at the highest level of Division I football.
He called Schiano a mentor and a friend, and said that while the “vision” for the program will not change, “I’m not here to be Greg Schiano.”
“I’m not worried about blazing my own path. I’m worried about advancing the program forward,” he said. “The things that are good, we want to keep them good. And as we evaluate things, if we think there’s a chance to get better, we want to get better.”