Praise due for Greg Schiano's off-field work

I get the feeling that fans are growing restless and a bit frustrated with Greg Schiano at Rutgers.

In last week's series of Big East polls, Schiano got the top number of votes as the league coach who most needs to win, with 34 percent of the tally. I get plenty of emails asking me if Schiano is on the hot seat, including one in my mailbag earlier Tuesday.

It's understandable in one sense, as Schiano has been in Piscataway for a decade and has yet to win a league title in the most wide-open BCS conference of them all. The Scarlet Knights won five straight bowl games but mostly played in undesirable postseason games, and last year's 4-8 season was miserable all the way around.

But there's just as much reason to give Schiano credit. He brought respectability to a program that had very little before his arrival. And what he's done off the field might be his most remarkable achievement.

Rutgers received public recognition from the NCAA on Tuesday for finishing in the top 10 percent nationally in the Academic Progress Rate scores. It's the fourth straight year the Scarlet Knights have earned that distinction, and last year the program finished No. 1 in the country in the APR.

Rutgers has been the only state university in the top 10 percent all four years. Just 13 FBS programs are ranked in the top 10 percent.

"All kids want to play football and win games and go to the NFL," Schiano said Tuesday. "Sometimes this part is a little more difficult. I'm really proud of the whole program. A culture has been established here where education is important, and it's valued."

The APR recognitions date from 2006 to 2010. Schiano has been able to keep his team's grades, graduation rates and retention at a high level even while recruiting top-caliber athletes. He said that some players who maybe came from rough upbringings or subpar school systems just need an opportunity to blossom.

"Recruits understand that this is what they sign up for," Schiano said. "If they care and love the game of football, then they'll do what we ask."

Whatever you think of Schiano's coaching acumen, you have to respect what he's built with the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers players not only do well in the classroom, but they rarely end up in the wrong part of the newspaper. You just don't hear about a lot of arrests or other off-the-field problems involving current Scarlet Knights players.

All that has to count in Schiano's favor, though ultimately coaches must win football games no matter how clean and academically-sound their programs may be. Still, the next time a Rutgers fan feels some frustration over his school's lack of championship rings, this is another aspect to consider and take pride in.