FOUR DAYS TO SIGNING DAY
Schiano was, depending on whom you ask, either the savior of Rutgers football or a miserable failure. While he turned a laughingstock into a Top 25 program, the well compensated coach (he made $2.3 million last year) also never delivered a conference title. There's much at stake in the hiring of his successor. After a 9--4 season, the Knights could be in position to rule the now-watered-down Big East, but at the same time the school has poured millions into the program, and many at the university are losing patience.
While on the recruiting trail Pernetti has been simultaneously interviewing coaching candidates—in some cases he's flying out of state for the meetings. He knows that going outside Piscataway for the hire might galvanize disenchanted fans. On the other hand promoting someone from within, such as a seven-year assistant like Flood, could be the best chance to keep the recruiting class together. Pernetti's interview with Flood, a Bayside, N.Y., native with strong ties to local high school coaches, lasts more than three hours. "I'm the guy who can keep these recruits here," Flood, 41, tells Pernetti. "I know these kids. We have to believe in what we've built here and what we stand for. Rutgers is no longer a stop along the way—it's a destination."
THREE DAYS TO SIGNING DAY
In the age of texting, Twitter and Facebook, the recruiting process has become more overwhelming than ever for high school players. "At the beginning, you're like, Wow, this is cool," says Fuller. But then it changes: "It's not just coaches. All those recruiting websites wanting to check in constantly, they're the worst. My voicemail has been full for a month. By the end you just want it all to be over."
Fuller decides he can't wait any longer for Rutgers to replace Schiano. He announces that he's headed to UCLA, where new coach Jim Mora has assured him that he'll be a quarterback. More bad news in Piscataway: There are reports that Mike Giacone, a three-star tight end from Jersey City who's been committed to the Knights since the summer, has flipped and is heading to Boston College.
That night even New Jersey governor Chris Christie calls Pernetti with concern. "How's it going?" the governor asks. "How's the search? How's recruiting?" Says Pernetti, "I think we'll be O.K."
TWO DAYS TO SIGNING DAY
Over the last few days Flood has been telling the recruits the same thing: "I'm the interim head coach; I expect to be named head coach; and I expect to stay head coach for a long time." When Pernetti summons Flood that afternoon and offers him the job amid rumors that Cristobal passed on the offer, Flood says, "Let's get to work then." As Flood is leaving Pernetti's office, he gets a call from Muller, who has just heard rumors of Flood's hiring. Muller replies, "We've been waiting for this."
ONE DAY TO SIGNING DAY