Can’t Rutgers Just Compete With Dignity?

RU logoI am a Rutgers alum. On balance I feel fondly about my alma mater. Its academics are strong, and always have been. Value-wise it is a top university, and the University has a smart, diverse and largely New Jersey student body. The main campus is in New Brunswick, NJ which has been transformed and rejuvenated in the past 20 years into a trendy location with restaurants and arts. The city of New Brunswick is now actually cool and hip. I couldn’t have said that in the 70s. The physical layout of the University with multiple nearby mini-campuses across Piscataway and New Brunswick connected by intra-campus buses is probably less than ideal, but it works.

Interestingly today (November 6) is the 150th Anniversary of the first college football game on November 6, 1869. Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4 in a field in New Brunswick whose location is now where the College Avenue Gymnasium is located. This should be a day to celebrate Rutgers and its athletic history. Unfortunately,  it is not.

Simply said, Rutgers athletics are an embarrassment. Not on the field, that’s merely about wins and losses. Rutgers athletics ethics brings shame on the University, and diminishes my feeling toward my alma mater. This is a far bigger issue than wins and losses on the field of play. Rutgers is in the Big Ten and competes with 13 other Big Ten schools, largely state universities. The decision to join the Big Ten was driven by money as the financial payout to Big Ten schools is considerable. Rutgers competes well in many sports, but alas the marquis sports—football and men’s basketball—are not where Rutgers excels. But that’s OK.

Here’s my point: It’s OK not to win Big Ten Championships. Or even have winning records. Just compete with dignity.

RU tixIn the past few weeks:

1. Football coach Chris Ash was fired by AD Pat Hobbs after the 4th game and is owed $8.5Miilion on his contract. $8.5Million. Great negotiating Pat.

2. The same Pat Hobbs this week called a reporter “f—ing scum” for inquiring about abuse violations on the woman’s softball team whose coach is Kristen Butler and her husband is a volunteer assistant. In a response to the charges, Butler proudly claimed “The results speak for themselves. Last year we finished 6th in the Big Ten”. What!!!! Does this woman have rocks in her head? Does Rutgers Athletics have any PR counsel? The implication is that the results (6th place) justify the means. Oh, that’s right the AD is cursing out reporters for asking legitimate questions.

Unfortunately past abuses at Rutgers are legendary and have brought shame on the University. Does it ever end?

When I look at other Big Ten schools, I look at Northwestern as a model. Their academics are the best among the 14 Big Ten schools, and yet they historically struggled in football and men’s basketball, and that does nothing to tarnish their reputation. They lose with dignity and are still a great University.

It’s tough for alums to support an institution whose values appear to be screwed up. I suspect the AD will survive his recent misbehavior, the softball coach will survive, and soon Rutgers will hire another head football coach who will be gone before the end of his contract and nothing will change.

The University will have a new President (tbd) in ‘20-’21 and my hope is that he/she won’t let Rutgers athletics ever drag the University’s reputation down. That would be refreshing. We’ll see.

I am OK if Rutgers fields teams that lose more than they win. There’s no shame in losing in collegiate athletics. Just lose with dignity if that’s the case. Happy 150th anniversary of the 1st college football game. Princeton lost that game to Rutgers, but their academic reputation didn’t take a hit.

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