Getting to Know You Part II: A Chat With the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Elsa

Yesterday we sat down, proverbially speaking, the Maryland Terrapins and got some of our lingering questions out of the way. Today it's all about Rutgers and Jon from the SBN Rutgers Site On The Banks was gracious enough to take time away from his busy schedule and answer some of my questions.

1) First off, welcome to the group. As a Nebraskan, I'm still getting my footing in this old school conference, but I can honestly say it's better than our former group. So let's get to you all. A week ago, all of us were in different places and were somewhat blissfully unaware of the impending craziness. Now? Well, now we're embarking on a world where Maryland and New Jersey are Big Ten country. Did you all see this coming or is it still pretty surreal? What were your initial reactions?

Rutgers may not have had a feel for the timeline, but there was an expectation that they would get into the Big Ten or ACC sooner or later. It looked like that would happen the past few years with the push towards super conferences, but both times the powers that be decided to put a halt on things. Rutgers had been keeping in contact with the Big Ten and ACC since then, and there has always been a quiet confidence within the athletic department that things would work out. The school's athletic director is a former television executive who is very well connected on these matters.

2) The Rutgers Scarlet Knights. I will be the first to tell you that I have almost no background on anything about your school. I do know Eric Legrand went there and he is an absolute stud, but that isn't really the only thing that you should be known for. Tell us a little bit about your football team as well as your other non-revenue sports. We love our non-rev sports in this conference.

After being part of the first football game, Rutgers stayed at the equivalent of the FCS level until the late 70s. This stems in part due to them originally being a small private school, expanding into a large state university after World War II. Athletics were never really prioritized and hence were mostly mediocre. That started to change in some respects in the late 70s when Rutgers started to get serious about athletics, but they still had a lot of ground to make up, and it's been a decades-long struggle to get to this point. One really bad football hire in the mid-90s set the program back a decade. They've been doing much better lately of course. Basketball has never really recovered from turning down an invite to the Big East when it was first formed (hoping instead to join a Joe Paterno-led eastern conference that never came into fruition.) They were only able to join the Big East for basketball in 1996, and have been middling at best there with all of the depth in the Big East. Some people think they could be on the bubble this year, we'll see.

Rutgers is really good at women's basketball. They just started investing in the wrestling program the past few years to some good results. Historically, the school is good at baseball, soccer, and lacrosse, but all three have struggled recently on the men's side and are in various stages of rebuilding. Track is pretty good too.

3) So most of us have a very, well uh, let's just say less than stellar view of New Jersey. It's not your fault, but let's just say GTL has pretty much ruined everything about Jersey for most people. Still, Rutgers brings a major New York market that Emperor Delany craves, so who am I to argue? To alleviate any of the crazy misconceptions about your fanbase, tell us a little bit about what we should expect from the Rutgers contingent.

Well first off, that stereotype isn't really accurate. (The cast is from Staten Island!) New Jersey is very diverse ethnically and culturally, we have lots of everything. Most Italians are just boring accountants and lawyers who wouldn't be caught dead in a nightclub. The largest ethnic group may actually be South Asians. If you watched The Sopranos, the really accurate parts were the sections on Tony's home life. Suburban areas outside of New York City and Philadelphia are...pretty much exactly like suburban Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, etc... The quality of life is very good here by really any metric you can think of.

It's fair to say that Rutgers has a chip on its shoulder. We've been trying to build towards the Big Ten for a decade, and at literally every step of the way there were naysayers who said the experiment would be doomed to failure. Rutgers isn't going to be an overnight power, but they're not going to go away, and the program is a solid bet to keep moving forward in the right direction. Some people take that as overconfidence, or think that RutgersAl speaks for us all. Collectively, Rutgers fans have been through a lot, and proved their mettle by persevering.

4) Academically, Rutgers is a better fit than Nebraska because you all are in the AAU and we were kicked out. For the record, if you voted against us as well, you are now my enemy... But seriously, what does Rutgers bring to the CIC? As a University, what is Rutgers known for?

Rutgers is very strong in the traditional liberal arts. The school has a very good faculty, but has had to boost admissions over the past few decades in response to stark cuts in state funding. One big step to changing that was that they recently were able to get their medical school back, which was taken away due to politics in the '70s. Due to the way federal funding is allocated, the hope is that can help Rutgers become eligible for larger block grants. I remember reading that the medical school thing was an issue for Nebraska too, along with not counting agricultural research. The CIC is much appreciated in this respect as well. There is definitely the strong emphasis on academics here that you see throughout the Big Ten. Technology and life sciences are key to the local economy, and that's where a lot of the emphasis is increasingly going.

5) Lastly, let's talk tailgating. If there is one thing we like to do in the Midwest, it's eat food with ranch dressing and drink copious amounts of alcohol. What are you all bringing to the table? Can we expect some stereotypical "all-Jersey-peoples-are-Italian" food into the fray or are their some traditions we don't know about that will blow our minds. Also, what beer are you bringing?

It's your typical burger, brats, etc... grilling options. Rutgers does have the best college tailgating east of the Big Ten and north of the ACC though, if only by default. For me beer would probably be Blue Moon or something local or imported. Have to keep up for appearances after all.

Again, special thanks to Jon and the team over at On The Banks. You should really check out their stuff and note their disdain for both Penn State and Notre Dame football. I think these guys might fit in after all.

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