PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers officially hired Chris Ash as its new coach Monday, giving the Ohio State defensive coordinator a five-year contract at $2 million annually.
Rutgers’ board of governors approved Ash’s contract to replace Kyle Flood, who was fired following a 4-8 season defined by troubles on and off the field.
Ash said Monday he got two questions from his 14-year-old son before taking the job: Could they win and be ranked at Rutgers?
“Yeah, we can win,” Ash replied. “I said: ‘Yeah, we can get ranked.’”
Ash, 41, built Ohio State’s defense into a top-20 unit nationally.
Ash said he wants to build a first-class program at Rutgers that the university, the state and those living nearby can support and be proud of.
“If I can do that, the wins will come, a ranking will come — all of those things that everybody wants,” he said.
Ash — an Iowa native — is a first-time head coach. He played at Drake before beginning his coaching career there in 1997 as a graduate assistant, then defensive coordinator. Ash worked at Iowa State on two occasions.
Ash was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2011-12 before following coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas to be the defensive coordinator. Ash was hired by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer in 2014 to fix a defense that suffered late-season collapses to Michigan State and Clemson.
Ohio State won the national championship last season and went 11-1 this season, boasting its best defense since 2010. Ohio State is tied for fourth in the nation in yards allowed per play (4.39).
Ash said he’d like to use elements of the spread offense he saw at Ohio State and the pro-style offense he saw at Wisconsin.
“When we go against an offense that’s balanced, a quarterback could be under center or in the gun, I think those are challenges that defensive coaches don’t like and I would like to have an offense that can be multiple and attack a defense in different ways,” he said.
Ash will now face Meyer every season. Both Ohio State and Rutgers are in the Big Ten East, the stacked side of the conference that includes Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.
With Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, Ash said he will split his time between jobs until Ohio State’s season is over.
The Scarlet Knights played poorly this season and had issues off the field. Flood was suspended by the university for three games in September improperly communicating with a professor. Seven football players were also arrested in September.
Ash knows his job is to clean that up.
“It takes time,” Ash said. “And we want to create a culture that tries to educate the players on how to make the right decisions.”
Flood and athletic director Julie Hermann were fired the day after the regular season finale. Patrick Hobbs was hired to replace Hermann, his first task to find a new football coach.
“This is not an easy job,” Hobbs said. “There is a lot to do to bring us to the level of competitiveness and excellence we all want. Chris Ash is the right man to lead that effort.”