PISCATAWAY, N.J. - With rumors persisting that Michigan is interested in Greg Schiano, the Rutgers coach tried to quickly defuse such talk yesterday, saying no one had approached him about another job.
Schiano said that right now, his only focus is his team's preparation for Ball State in the International Bowl.
Schiano spent much of last season dealing with talk about his going to Miami. After meeting with Hurricanes officials, he took himself out of the running last December. But the seventh-year coach said it has not come close to that point this year as the Wolverines search for Lloyd Carr's replacement.
"I haven't spoken to anybody about any job, and that's where we're going to leave it," he said. "This is a young football team that really has an opportunity to do some great things. I want to put all the focus on them, all the focus on where we're headed."
Quarterback Mike Teel said the players weren't worried about the talk.
"This has happened once before, and he was straight up with us and told us how he felt, what he wanted, and we're pretty sure none of that has changed," Teel said. "There's no reason for us to concern ourselves with that."
Instead, the concern is with Ball State (7-5), which will be Rutgers' opponent when the two meet in Toronto on Jan. 5.
This marks the third straight year Rutgers (7-5) has received a bowl berth, after the Knights went to just one in their first 135 years of competition. Rutgers won its first bowl game last year, defeating Kansas State, 37-10, in the Texas Bowl and finishing 12th in the rankings.
This year, preseason hopes abounded as Rutgers set its sights on reaching a BCS Bowl. They grew when Rutgers was ranked No. 10 after a 3-0 start. But a 4-5 finish relegated the Scarlet Knights to a second-tier bowl against a relatively unknown opponent from the Mid-American Conference.
"Obviously, when you start out the year, no one wants to be 7-5," said Teel, who led Rutgers to an 11-2 mark in 2006. "But the bottom line is, we have a great opportunity to do something a lot of teams don't have an opportunity to do, and that's play in a bowl game."
While this could be seen as a step backward for Rutgers, Teel feels otherwise.
"For the year, it's not what we want, but in the grand scheme of things, in the long run, we're going the right way," he said.
Defensive tackle Eric Foster hopes the Knights learn from the past when it comes to the International Bowl.
"Right now, we're doing some soul searching - where we went wrong, make sure we correct those things - and put our focus on this bowl game," Foster said.
Schiano said his players would use the coming weeks to practice, get healthy, do some strength and conditioning, and meet with professors. After Christmas break, game planning will begin for Ball State, and the team will leave for Toronto right around the New Year.