Every now and then solid football programs have bad seasons.
Currently, USF is in the midst of a doozy, as the first team in school history with eight losses in a season.
So what have been the worst of the worst among winning programs, the historically bad seasons in Big East play? Rutgers in 1997 takes the cake.
Rutgers, 0-11, 1997: Rutgers has a proud tradition as the birthplace of college football. Though the perception is that only Greg Schiano had success here, that is not the case. Rutgers has had more seasons at .500 or better than losing seasons, going back to 1900. But it is true that this program fell on hard times between the 1980s and early 2000s. In fact, Rutgers had a losing record 18 times between 1980-2004 -- including a string of 10 straight between 1995-2004. The low point came in 1997, when the Scarlet Knights failed to win a game for just the second time since 1900. The other was in 1901, when Rutgers went 0-7. The 1997 season featured seven games in which the opposition scored 48 points or more, and Rutgers was outscored by an average of 45-17. Quarterback Mike McMahon threw six touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, and Rutgers ended up ranking No. 109 in total defense, No. 108 in rushing defense, No. 110 in rushing offense, No. 100 in scoring offense and No. 99 in total offense. Out of 112 teams. Coach Terry Shea ended up lasting three more seasons in Piscataway, but never posted a winning record. Schiano replaced Shea and turned the program around. The Scarlet Knights have had winning seasons in seven of the past eight years, and just clinched at least a share of their first Big East title. That 1997 Rutgers team remains the only one in Big East history to go an entire season without a victory. Not even historically bad Temple -- which has never had a winning season in Big East play -- can match that.
Here are a few others:
Syracuse, 1-10, 2005: Sorry, Orange fans, I know none of you want to be reminded of the Greg Robinson error. Hard to believe this team started the season with a near-upset of West Virginia, which ended up going 11-1 with a Big East title. Syracuse lost eight straight to finish off the worst season in school history. Just the year before, the Orange went 6-6 but earned a share of the Big East title with a 4-2 league mark. Paul Pasqualoni was shown the door the following season, and Robinson ended up winning 10 games in his four-year tenure. Doug Marrone is still cleaning up the mess.
Pitt, 4-7, 1996: The Panthers had worse records, going 2-9 in 1995 and 1998. But Pitt observers will tell you the 4-7 team in 1996 was actually worse. Talk about uncompetitive. Take a look at some of these scores: lost to West Virginia 34-0; lost at Ohio State 72-0; lost at Miami 45-0; lost at Syracuse 55-7; lost at Notre Dame 60-6. The worst Pitt team, though, was the group that went 1-10 in 1972. Johnny Majors was hired the year after, and the Panthers had a Heisman winner and national championship within four seasons.