James Gandolfini, Bucs coach Greg Schiano became unlikely tandem
When Bucs coach Greg Schiano took over Rutgers’ disaster of a football program in 2001, he had quite the job ahead of him.
Generally speaking, his task was to make Rutgers relevant after becoming one of the worst programs in the country. It was a mission that would require help from a number of different sources, both conventional and nonconventional.
This is how The Sopranos star James Gandolfini, one of Rutgers’ most famous graduates, and Schiano joined forces. Their common goal – Gandolfini was one of Rutgers’ most ardent fans – resulted in a joint effort to promote the program. Most notable was a 2001 television commercial in which they appeared together.
Gandolfini died Wednesday at 51, and Rutgers – as well as Schiano – lost a good friend.
The two had much in common. Both clearly shared a passion for football, and both have deep New Jersey ties; Schiano was born in Wycoff, Gandolfini in Westwood. For both, seeing Rutgers succeed was personal. Gandolfini was a fixture at games, evidenced in the photo below posted by Bucs running back Brian Leonard, a Rutgers grad.
Rutgers’ rise from afterthought to respected Big East power is mostly a credit to the job Schiano did. But Schiano likely would admit it didn’t hurt to have fictional mob boss Tony Soprano on his side, either.