Donning the same matching combination of a black suit and red tie he debuted at his introductory press conference back in December, Chris Ash was up at the podium again on Monday for the start of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
The conference is nothing new to Ash, whose recent pit stops at Wisconsin and Ohio State molded him for a dream-job opportunity of navigating his own Big Ten program.
But now, gripping the head coach reins at Rutgers as his first fall on the Banks approaches, Ash appreciates his journey to Piscataway even more.
“The trial and errors happened as an assistant coach along my journey,” he said. “I took a great notes. I think I learned a lot of how to do things good and bad through that journey. I think because of that experience, that exposure, it's helped me build a plan that I feel really confident about.”
The culture change has remained a constant in that blueprint, from the top-20 class of 2017 on the recruiting trail to the ongoing upgrades in facilities at the Hale Center.
They come in bits in pieces from his previous staffs, with Ash longing to thrust Rutgers back into recruiting success after seeing it come to fruition most recently under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
“Urban recruits at a really high level,” Ash said of Meyer, whose Buckeyes sit atop the 2017 recruiting rankings. “At the end of the day, we want to bring the same type. Everybody wants talented players. You want players with high character. You want players with great work ethic, guys that have competitive spirit, will buy into what you want to do. Offensive and defensively we want a physical football team.”
Big Ten roots entrenched in relationships with the likes of Meyer, former Wisconsin coaches Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez have helped Ash stay one step ahead of the game during his transition period at Rutgers.
Alvarez served as the keynote speaker at the Rutgers Football Coaches Clinic in April, while Ash most recently linked up with Meyer in June to co-host the Tri-State Showcase and outnumber Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan camp at nearby Paramus (N.J.) Catholic.
But perhaps the most unique bond of all has been with his replacement — the same one who built Rutgers into a Big Ten brand — Greg Schiano.
“Greg and I have had plenty of conversations over the last two years just about him being a head coach at Rutgers, my desire to be a head coach,” Ash said. “He gave me some advice along the way and then when the transition happened, we were together at Ohio State for a week and we talked a lot about Ohio State, anything I can give him to help him in that transition. We talked about Rutgers and anything that he can do to help me in that transition, and we’ve stayed in touch throughout. But he’s got a job to do, I’ve got a job to do and we’re both there to help each other if need be.”
Until their paths cross again in October at Ohio Stadium, Ash and Schiano settle in at their new homes for the upcoming season.
“I’ve been able to learn from a lot of really great people,” he said. “I’ve taken really good notes along the way and I’ve had a lot of strong beliefs and philosophies and convictions about how I’ve wanted things to be done and this is basically my test to see if what I believe in will work. And I like that.”