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Losing With Dignity.

rutgers“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”.

This well-worn phrase is often used by losing teams and athletes to justify misbehavior while being sore losers. Cam Newton used it last month to justify his lack of graciousness in accepting their recent Super Bowl defeat. So be it. This post is not about Cam’s behavior.

I do believe there indeed is something to being a gracious loser, particularly in college sports. Today’s Struming is actually about my alma mater, good old Rutgers which is located on the banks of the Raritan, “where old Rutgers evermore shall stand”. I am (mostly) proud of Rutgers as a University and the success, or lack, of our athletic teams does not make me more or less proud.

I was not proud of the shenanigans of the former AD Julie Hermann and football coach, Kyle Flood. But they have recently both been replaced. I was also not proud how the university handled the dismissal of former basketball coach Mike Rice several years ago, and the subsequent forced resignation of Tim Pernetti, their former AD, who took the fall for admittedly really bad decision making on his part on merely suspending the former Rutgers basketball coach, Mike Rice. The University conveniently overlooked Pernetti’s herculean accomplishment of having Rutgers join the Big Ten. It needed a fall guy, but all this is now in the past.

Most importantly, Rutgers is a fine university. Academically, Rutgers is on par or stronger than almost all of its Big Ten bretheren (Northwestern University being a cut above). Rutgers provides high quality collegiate education for largely smart, middle class kids who grow up in New Jersey. Rutgers is not a destination school for out of state-ers. Nor does it have to be. With a densely populated state, there are many smart kids who will gladly attend Rutgers and will get a fine education. And Rutgers graduate/medical programs are top notch as well.

But Rutgers major athletics programs in its main campus are a cut below other Big Ten programs and will remain so. Here’s the key point of today’s Struming: With total objectivity I can say with virtual certainty that Rutgers will:

1) Never win a Big Ten football championship and never go to the Rose Bowl
2) Never again get a NCAA bid to the men’s basketball tournament

I could be wrong, though I suspect I won’t be, at least in my lifetime. These virtual certainties don’t make me feel badly. They are just facts of life. I am not calling for yet more wasted athletic spending to rectify this prediction. In fact I don’t think more money would change the outcome. I am OK with being a second tier Big Ten University (athletically) in the major sports of football and men’s basketball.

But here’s what I want in return for accepting no championships, winning seasons, no Rose Bowls and no Big Dance. I want to be proud of the coaches, the athletic department and the athletes.

No more shady stuff to try to jam through less qualified students. No more papers created by Coaches to “help” students who didn’t attend Dance class. No more strong arming adjunct profs to pass failing athletes who couldn’t care less. No more athletes arrested for assault. No more antagonistic comments from coaches and the AD to the press.

In my utopian world Rutgers athletes would be true student-athletes—with strong GPAs, 100% graduation rate, and successful lives. Not police blotter stuff or suspended for “team rules violations” or worse.

BTW, the one Big Ten University I mentioned with even stronger academics than Rutgers is Northwestern University. Northwestern has a lifetime 37% winning percentage against Big Ten football opponents, and is the only long standing university in a power conference to never have been invited to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (though it did trounce Rutgers 99-58 last Saturday). They compete well, win a fair amount, but also lose with dignity and yet make their (smart) alumni proud.

Northwesterrn University is a great role model. Rutgers, please lose with dignity and make us proud doing so as well. Stay classy, Scarlet Knights.

Update: Ed Jordan was dismissed as Rutgers basketball coach after this season. Rutgers won just one Big Ten game and only 7 overall, an awful season. He will be replaced by Steve Pikiell, formerly coach of Stonybrook, who is well regarded. Jordan was not a great recruiter or coach, yet he did restore dignity to the program and for that alums are grateful. I guess in the end you need to won some, and lose with dignity, not just lose almost all the time.




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2 Comments

  1. Good and thoughtful post, Lonny. A few points:

    1. Firing Pernetti was the dumbest and most feckless thing that President Barchi ever did. Pernetti took the fall for Barchi (who SHOULD have had the ultimate responsibility in this) solely because Governor Christie needed Barchi to complete the medical school merger, which was more important at the time. Pernetti was the real deal, and would have spared all of us Rutgers rooters the indignity of the Hermann fiasco.

    2. I believe your prognostication for the football team may be true. Hopefully, though, they can be competitive — beat Penn State and Michigan occasionally, and go to (admittedly inferior) bowls.

    3. I have higher hopes for the hoops team. Given the overwhelming basketball talent in this state, all it would take is two or three good (not even great) recruiting years to right this ship.

    Keep Strumming!

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Losing Pernetti was a big step backwards. Alas I have no hope for RU athletics. No men’s NCAA basketball tourney trips since 91 (that’s 25 years) and now they play tougher teams

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