I appreciate a realist. You don’t get them very often in the politically correct, marketing-savvy, 21st century world of college football that we live in today.
Chris Ash is a realist. He understands the situation he signed up for. That was evident the day he was hired.
Months later, he still gets it. His satellite camp decision is more proof of that.
When news came out on Monday that Ash was teaming up with Ohio State and Temple to host a Tri-State Showcase (as tweeted from Ash’s Twitter account), there were obvious questions.
Why would Rutgers bring in a goliath like Ohio State to host a camp on its own territory? Isn’t that the same recruiting hotbed that Rutgers is so desperate to win back?
That’s one way to look at it. The other way, which is likely how Ash sees the situation, makes more sense.
Michigan, of course, is hosting a satellite camp at the nationally-known Paramus Catholic (NJ) 30 miles away on the same day. That’s the same school that produced two of the last three top New Jersey recruits, both of whom went to Michigan (not including running back Kareem Walker). In fact, former Paramus Catholic head coach/current Michigan assistant Chris Partridge won Scout.com’s National Recruiter of the Year for his efforts in the New Jersey area.
Urban Meyer, on the other hand, has only landed three 4-star New Jersey recruits since taking over in Columbus. Ohio State isn’t Ash’s main home-turf competition. Michigan is.
Simply hosting a satellite camp with Temple and another random FBS school at Fairleigh Dickinson University wouldn’t take much attention away from Michigan’s camp. It actually could’ve been a minor embarrassment if Michigan’s camp dwarfed Rutgers’ in attendance.
But by teaming up with Ohio State, Ash’s former team, Rutgers got the big-ticket draw it needed. Will the camp help Ohio State land a recruit or two? It could, but that’s a chance Rutgers has to take to try and deny Michigan more exposure in New Jersey.
Here’s the genius in all of this. By opposing Paramus Catholic, which many in New Jersey do, Ash had an easy pitch to the top high school programs in the state. He already has three of the perennial New Jersey powers telling their kids to attend Rutgers’ camp instead of Michigan’s.
“I think it’s a great response,” Bergen Catholic’s (NJ) Nunzio Campanile told NJ.com. “I think he’s sending a message that this is our state. Listen, Michigan has a great program, but I don’t think they should be setting the terms on how it’s done in New Jersey. Rutgers is the home-state school, and I think we should all respect that.
“We should all respect the job that Coach Ash has ahead of him. I think that he’s doing a great job. We’re here helping him any way we can.”
If that isn’t music to Ash’s ears, I don’t know what is.
Satellite camps are about establishing relationships and showcasing talent. They can also send a message. You knew Ash was going to have a response for Jim Harbaugh when he decided to set up shop on his territory.
Ash’s last few months have been about sending a message. He did that when he acknowledged on his first day that Rutgers was in rebuilding mode, and that championships weren’t his focus in 2016. He did that when he openly ripped Rutgers’ uniforms and called for a return to the classic look. He did that when he said after the spring game that his quarterbacks “didn’t play particularly great” and he wanted to see “who could go out under the lights on Big Ten Network and perform.”
Even that running man challenge video showed his awareness.
Ash already showed that he has a better grasp of his situation than his predecessor. Pretending satellite camps and the team’s brand are just offseason noise would be foolish. If Ash was that oblivious, his days in Piscataway would already be numbered. Instead, his efforts helped Rutgers reach the halfway point to its $100 million fundraising goal for some needed facility upgrades.
There’s no guarantee that Ash’s unconventional joint satellite camp move with Ohio State yields a bevy of top East Coast recruits for Rutgers. There’s no guarantee that Ash gets the Scarlet Knights out of the B1G East basement in 2016, either.
But so far, Ash has said and done everything right in his first offseason.