"Hey CBS Sports! You can take my guy off your list. Program building takes time, and Chris Ash is doing a great job!" Rutgers athletics director Pat Hobbs tweeted last July in response to Dennis Dodd's inclusion on Ash on a hot-seat list.
It was the typical "I don't care, but I really do" response. This year, Hobbs says he doesn't care about hot-seat lists, though he does want "significant improvement" from a football program that went 1-11 last year and has seven total wins in Ash's three seasons.
“Chris and I know what the expectations are. Anyone else, they can attach labels and things like that," Hobbs said on Thursday. "Our label is we want to see significant improvement,” Hobbs said. “We want to show our fans that we’re on the right track and things are happening in a positive direction where we can really look forward to success down the road.”
The program didn't move in a positive direction last year. Seven of their 11 losses came by at least 14 points, including a 41-point loss against Kansas, and didn't score more than 17 points in their final 11 games, which included four games with seven or fewer points. They haven't won a conference game (or beat a Power Five team) since Nov. 4, 2017, and have four total FBS wins in the last two years.
“I don’t know that I could verbalize ‘significant improvement,’” Hobbs added. “There are many ways, obviously, this coming season could go where we say, ‘Hey, we did really well.’ That’s not necessarily wins. We want wins, obviously. We’d like to get to a number of wins where we can start thinking about whether we are going to be bowl eligible, and I think there is an opportunity in the first half of the season for us."
When Ash arrived in December 2015, he signed a five-year, $11-million contract. In November 2017, he signed a new deal that included a one-year extension and increased his buyout to more than $10 million if fired after the 2018 season. That figure dropped to $8 million if fired after the 2019 season.
What's the magic number? Hobbs claims he doesn't have one. He also claims not to care about hot-seat lists.