Is Joe Moorhead a candidate for the vacant Rutgers head coaching position?
An NJ.com story Thursday said Moorhead was “believed to be” the frontrunner to be Rutgers’ next permanent head coach. A former quarterback and head coach at Fordham, Moorhead has strong ties to the New York City area.
Friday, Moorhead appeared on the Paul Finebaum show ahead of Mississippi State’s home game against LSU Saturday. When Finebaum asked about Rutgers, Moorhead first gave a non-answer answer. Finebaum then pressed him about the job.
“It’s not something that’s under consideration,” Moorhead said. “My focus is here at Mississippi State. This is where we want to be and this is what we want to do.”
You can watch the full exchange in the video below. When Finebaum mentioned Rutgers possibly calling Moorhead’s representation, the coach responded: “If they get a call then we’ll deal with it then.”
Buyout would cost a reported $2M
Rutgers is looking for a new coach after firing Chris Ash following a 52-0 loss to Michigan earlier this season and appointing Nunzio Campanile as the interim coach.
NJ.com obtained the terms of Moorhead’s current contract with Mississippi State and noted that his buyout with the school would be just under $2 million. Moorhead, a former offensive coordinator at Penn State after leaving Fordham, is in his second season with the Bulldogs after replacing now-Florida coach Dan Mullen. Mississippi State fell to 3-3 after losing to Tennessee in Week 7.
While it’s tough to keep Mississippi State near the top of an exceptional SEC West, building a program at Rutgers may be even tougher. The Scarlet Knights have struggled — to put it kindly — since joining the Big Ten and are in a division with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
Ash was hired from Ohio State where he served as the team’s defensive coordinator. He was 8-32 in 40 games as Rutgers’ head coach and a Friday NJ.com story cited high school coaches in the state who marveled at how Ash didn’t put a priority on in-state recruiting in the populous state.
Several of the coaches were struck at how little contact they had with Ash during his three and a half years in Piscataway, especially after Ash promised they would be a priority during a 90-minute meeting during his first month on the job. Bernards coach Jon Simoneau, whose quarterback, Teddy Gouldin, is a potential FBS recruit, said Wake Forest is a bigger presence on the recruiting trail despite the obvious geographic challenges.
Is Rutgers ready to spend?
If Rutgers wants to go after Moorhead or another coach with an established pedigree it’s going to have to spend some significant cash. Moorhead’s current salary is at over $3 million per season. Ash was making $2.3 million.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, Rutgers could be willing to up the financial commitment. Here’s what Thamel wrote about Rutgers in his midseason hot seat column published Tuesday.
RUTGERS – There’s early talk that Rutgers is going to play ball with the Big Ten big boys, including a coaching salary in the neighborhood of $4 million and, perhaps more important, a coaching staff salary pool in the neighborhood of $5 million. That type of commitment is needed to give Rutgers a prayer, as they are talent-deprived and generally hopeless after passing for one yard against Indiana. The fan, media and booster favorite here is Greg Schiano, the best coach in school history who has sat out this season. But Rutgers hired a search firm and is committed to a process. Look for the two biggest factors to be head-coaching experience and New Jersey ties, which former coach Chris Ash lacked.
Moorhead’s 2018 salary ranked 13th among the 14 SEC head coaches, while Ash’s 2018 salary was behind every Big Ten coach except for Indiana’s Tom Allen.
Moorhead was the head coach at Fordham from 2012-15 before he went to Penn State ahead of the 2016 season. In his four years in charge of the FCS program, Moorhead compiled a record of 38-13 and led the Rams to two double-digit win seasons. Moorhead and current Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson are the only two coaches to win 10 or more games at Fordham.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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