TAMPA — Until Thursday, the very mention of the name Greg Schiano brought a rare level of venom from some USF football fans all too familiar with the sideline antics of the Rutgers coach, not to mention his success against the Bulls with five wins in the past six seasons.
So for the large portion of Bulls fans who are also Bucs fans, the news that Schiano had been hired as Tampa Bay's new coach created an uneasy question:
How fully can you embrace your college nemesis as the coach of your favorite pro team?
It was Schiano, after all, who led Rutgers to an upset of then-No. 2 USF in 2007, knocking the Bulls from their highest ranking. He followed with USF's two most lopsided Big East losses — 49-16 in 2008 and 31-0 in 2009. After USF edged Rutgers in 2010, the Scarlet Knights returned the favor this past season, rallying from a 17-3 deficit in the final eight minutes for a 20-17 overtime win.
"As a Bulls fan with waning interest in the Bucs, this will finish me off," wrote Mark Scalabrin of Tampa, a New Jersey transplant, in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "Many of the Bulls fans have a sort of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) when it comes to that 2007 game, and I, for one will never get over it. … Nope, I will never get behind that guy."
Others were more forgiving and saw a win-win situation — taking Schiano away from Rutgers hurts one of the Bulls' top Big East rivals, and if anyone can appreciate his success as a coach, it should be Bulls fans, who have seen plenty of that on the other sideline.
"Bulls fans are good football fans and are so relieved to have Schiano gone from Rutgers that they should have no problem getting behind him and the Bucs," wrote Randy Wilson of Spring Hill. "I never hated Schiano. I always recognized his ability and saw him as a big-time coach. Did I pull for Rutgers? Of course not. But when you watched Ray Rice run the ball down our throats for 3 years in a row, you had to know Schiano had an eye for talent."
And for some Tampa Bay area fans, any wounds from Schiano's Rutgers days can vanish with that greatest of all cures: winning.
"I will hate Schiano right until he uses one of his stupid trick plays to help the #bucs win," Scott Sterling of St. Petersburg replied via Twitter.com.
No coach has beaten the Bulls more times than Schiano (five), and with Dave Wannstedt and Randy Edsall (four each) off the schedule, that record isn't going to another coach for several years. For most Bulls fans, that alone makes the Bucs' hire a good one.
"I like it because it's good for the Bucs and good for the Bulls," wrote Larry Derrick of Riverview.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.