Chris Ash is about to begin his first season as Rutgers’ head coach. To turn around the program, he’ll use recruiting and a program-identity overhaul — and he’s taking his Ohio State experience with him.
In a piece written for Sports Illustrated‘s campusrush.com, Ash gives his account of how much has really changed since he took over in December 2015. He even leads the essay by describing the football facility feeling like a prison with its “dull music” and muted colors — and no HD TVs.
But the best anecdote comes from how Ash is going to stress “shared suffering.”
We had a player who was struggling to gain weight this winter and stuffed a bean bag in his pants to help him gain an extra two or three pounds. Coach Parker found out about it, and we threw the entire unit out of the locker room. If a player is missing class or not performing well academically, his entire unit has to go on what we call, “The Night Shift.” That’s a study hall on Friday nights from 10 p.m. until midnight. If that doesn’t get the message across and players still mess up, we work them out at 5 a.m.
As a former Ohio State assistant, it’s not surprising for Ash to bring up the Buckeyes throughout his piece as a model to follow. As Ash puts it, the facilities and resources obviously aren’t the same at Rutgers as they are for Ohio State, but he’s brought in mat drills (quickness and agility drills done on mats) and wants to run his program’s structure and attitude like Ohio State’s. There’s been plenty of competition, including arm wrestling and a new basketball hoop to build camaraderie and competitiveness.
Ash has also seen a revamp of the weight room, incorporated a nutrition program and will get better practice fields and training rooms.
Rutgers hopes these changes lead to improvement, though this year’s schedule will make it difficult to see anything drastic in the record (Rutgers was 4-8 in 2015). Not only do the Scarlet Knights open at Washington on Sept. 3, but they also travel to Ohio State and Michigan State. Michigan also comes to town the week after Rutgers visits Ohio State.
But Ash is clearly bringing some stability for a program that is only 4-12 since joining the Big Ten.