Ben Kautz, a 19-year-old sophomore, is trying to become Rutgers' next football coach
On Monday afternoon—before of all things, a class named Extinction—Rutgers sophomore Ben Kautz and a friend were waiting for their professor to show up with a projector. To kill time Kautz's friend was on her phone when she saw something about the school's head coaching search.
Kautz's ears perked up. "You know what would be funny?" he asked her. "If I applied for the Rutgers head coaching job."
She said there was no way he would apply and dared him to do it. "At that point, I really only had one choice," Kautz says, laughing.
When Rutgers cleaned house last weekend, firing athletic director Julie Hermann and head football coach Kyle Flood, the expected pool of candidates emerged by Monday morning. There was former Miami coach Al Golden and Temple's Matt Rhule. Ex-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck. An outside-the-box candidate emerged in Coastal Carolina's Joe Moglia, the former CEO of TD Ameritrade, and a man who previously turned down the school, Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal.
And now Ben Kautz, a 19-year-old from Wayne, N.J., whose only coaching experience was a rec basketball team at a Boys & Girls Club three years ago. (In his defense, the team went 58–11 and 22–1 one season.)Courtesy of Ben Kautz
After taking 10 minutes to whip up a quick résumé, he emailed it to a handful of people within the Rutgers athletic department. And that, he expected, would be the end of it. "I really never thought I'd get a response," he says. "And if I did, that it would be, 'Please don't ever contact me again.'"
One person did respond: Geoff Brown, the school's senior associate athletic director and chief marketing officer. Brown wrote:
I will definitely pass this along. You have my vote (not that I have a vote, but if I did …)
"I could not believe I got a response back," Kautz says. "Once I told some friends that I got a response, they told me that I needed to put it on Twitter. And then everything just kind of blew up."
If you click on the hashtag #Kautz4Coach, there are a couple dozen Rutgers students picking up Kautz's cause, including the president of the student body. What began as a gag has developed into a semi-serious effort from the soon-to-be-business major. He's all in and hopes to get an interview with newly named AD Patrick Hobbs so he can personally convey the qualifications that make him perfect to be the next Scarlet Knights head coach.
What qualifications, you ask?
"Look at the positives, I'm 19 years old—you're getting tons of publicity right there," Kautz says. "The youngest head coach ever. Good Morning America has already told me that they want me on the show if I get this job."
Morning talk show circuit aside, Kautz says he knows that recruiting must be paramount for the next coach. And as a kid from Wayne Valley High, he knows what student-athletes from the Garden State want to hear. And if you think he's still joking, he isn't. It is listed on his résumé—right under the NCAA Football video game, on which he compiled the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for three straight years. (He also turned down Alabama to stay in Piscataway, N.J., because, you know, loyalty.)
He is pretty good at Madden, too, which means he has some pro-level experience; that's where his "Chip Kelly-esque offensive scheme" comes from. Plus, anyone who has coached the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars to championships deserves a shot, right?
"I'm not in this for the money," Kautz says.
(And he is serious about that point. He told Rutgers he would take the job at minimum wage.)Courtesy of Ben Kautz
O.K., O.K., so Kautz knows he has no chance to
actually get the job. But he likes that Rutgers is humoring him. That's part of the reason why he chose the school over his father's alma mater, Penn State. It was a place where he could build himself into anything, including, apparently, the head football coach. His dad loves that he is aiming high. His mom thinks it's great, too.
"She once said I was a good coach," Kautz says.
As someone who has gone to every home game during his first two years at Rutgers, Kautz just hopes the school makes the right hire at a pivotal time for the program. Its first two seasons in the Big Ten—this one, in particular (1–7 in league play, 4–8 overall)—left a lot to be desired. He knows there are candidates being considered who are supremely qualified to take the Scarlet Knights in the right direction.
"I would absolutely love an interview," Kautz says. "I just think that would be the coolest thing."
And if not?
Maybe Alabama will come calling again.