Hi everyone. If you haven't noticed, this week is finally Rutgers week. I promise that we will return you to your regularly, kind of scheduled, B1G 2013 Weekly Programming. However, we have been super fortunate to partner with the pretty cool team over at On The Banks, the SBNation Rutgers blog, now with more football coverage thanks to Kevin Recio. If you did not catch yesterday's Cocktail Party Preview, you should probably stop and go read his thorough breakdown of Rutgers Football that makes most me look bad because, you know, it seems like he actually watches football.
All that to say, you need to keep tabs on these guys. Do you know why? [no Jesse, why?] Because they are pretty entertaining and they know everything you would need to know about Rutgers and more. To illuminate this point, I sent the guys a bunch of questions regarding Rutgers and their responses are great. Dave White knows more about Rutgers' Basketball team than any one person should - and it's worth noting that his coverage both on OTB and twitter was excellent during the whole Mike Rice thing - and Bob Cancro is a writer and Rutgers alum who shares more here than I could tell about any given school I've been a part of. I think you all are going to enjoy these guys.
1. So we bought ourselves a Rutgers. Why don't we start with you telling all of us what that exactly means. What makes Rutgers a great addition to the Big Ten? Are there any things about the school and area that we will be surprised by? Any crazy secret facts that will just absolutely blow our minds?
Bob Cancro: I'm an unabashed Rutgers supporter. I'm an alum and for whatever the reason, I love the place, warts and all. It is a huge institution, covering four distinctly different campuses in three towns - and that's just the ‘Main Campus". You've got campuses in Newark and Camden, too, but for athletics they operate separately at D3. It's a major research institution, AAU membership (got that, UNL? Stick it, Syracuse!) It's adding a medical school (as of July 1 this year) and it is unique on a lot of levels. As for the culture, do not mention the TV show Jersey Shore - those people were mostly New Yorkers and they ruined the good name of the location, the Jersey shore, which is 127 miles of wonderful ocean front that has been the beloved vacation haunt of generations of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York folks. MTV sucks, too! And for those who live west of the Appalachians, and for anyone exhiled in the Maryland panhandle, there is an ocean next to New Jersey. It's sort of like a Great Lake, but without iron ore barges. It is a great source of pride to New Jerseyans. Even Canadians love Cape May!
Dave White: We stole a cannon from Princeton. It was the wrong one. Princeton got so paranoid they buried the right one in a ton of concrete. That's awesome.
Kevin Recio: I'll go ahead talk a little bit about the area. While everyone has heard that the underlying reason that RU was added to the B1G was the proximity to New York City, New Brunswick and Piscataway, the actual towns where the main Rutgers campus is located, is central New Jersey. It's quite suburban and actually more of a nice college town than a true urban city. The towns bordering New Brunswick and Piscataway range anywhere from quaint, suburban, and even rural. New Jersey is called the Garden State, and you'll actually be able to see why that name applies in spite of Newark airport and the city around it.
2. Let's take a few looks at sports for a moment. Yesterday we got a preview of the football team, but we here at Off Tackle Empire like to think that we are equal opportunity when it comes to other sports as we will embark on year two of the great OTE Basketball Experience. With that in mind, tell us a little bit about your history in some of the other sports. We love basketball, volleyball, and wrestling, and we have some pretty deep pockets of soccer, LAX, hockey, swimming and diving, and CC/Track. Does Rutgers have any non-revs that really get people excited?
Bob Cancro: I did a piece for OTB recently about Rutgers wrestling. Aside from football, it has recently been one of the most successful programs at RU. Going into the B1G will be a huge challenge. I know the conference is the best wrestling in the nation. But more NJ place winners - and NJ is a hotbed of HS wrestling - look at Rutgers now. This year's incoming class includes Anthony Ashnault, the state's first-ever undefeated (170-0) four-time state champion, along with a three-time Florida state champion, two NJ runners up and a PA runner up. The recruiting class was ranked 13th by InterMat. But there are 6 B1G schools in the top 12! The team wrestles bigger matches at the Athletic Center and has drawn upwards of 5,000, better than some basketball games of late.
The other sports are a mixed bag. Men's soccer has a relatively new coach and seems to be on the rebound. Women's soccer is the same. The men draw pretty well. Baseball has been very steady under 30-year (no, that is not a typo) head coach Fred Hill. The team has done well under his charge and went fairly deep into the BE tournament. Swimming. Ah, swimming. It's women only. Several years ago, under former AD Bob Mulcahy - he of ‘I hired Greg Schiano' fame - men's swimming was dropped along with crew and men's tennis. Call it Title IX, call it overall cost cutting. But the women swimmers and divers do okay. Both lacrosse teams should get a boost being in the new B1G Lax conferences. The men were a perennial NCAA qualifier years ago, but other programs passed us. A story is out there that legendary Army coach and RU grad Jack Emmer is working with the Knights. Hopeful sign? One of the biggest issues I see as needing addressing is facilities - across the board - and that will be a major concern over the next few years.
Dave White: I don't know enough about the non-revenue sports, but soccer has always been pretty decent around here. I mean Alexei Lalas is a Rutgers guy. How cool is that? And the new team apparently has some really good talent coming to the banks of the Raritan. So keep your eyes open.
Kevin Recio: Baseball had a pretty successful year, getting to the semifinals of the conference tournament, even beating regular season champ Louisville in the quarterfinals. Soccer is also good and has a strong recruiting class coming in. Lacrosse is popular in Jersey, with every high school now fielding a decent team and many top recruits coming out of the Garden State. Lacrosse has been down for a few seasons, but with the B1G looking to establish a real conference, RU Lax should be formidable enough to be in the top half of conference play every year.
3. Now, we've all seen the mess at Rutgers as of late, and while Nebraska apologizes for anything to do with Julie Hermann, most all of us in the B1G are just kind of scratching our heads wondering what is going on. Is the media portrayal of the mess at Rutgers a fair assessment? Was it necessary to get rid of the last guy? Does it really matter in the end or is there a strong enough base that it's all good?
Bob Cancro: Mess? What mess? That was New Jersey doing what it does best: self-loathing and eating our own for breakfast. We were hoping Gordon Gee would keep the spotlight for a while but, nooo, tOSU folks encouraged him to "retire". Where to start? Tim Pernetti - "the last guy" - was, in my opinion a fall guy for University President Robert Barchi. Barchi was hired to oversee the massive merger of Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ (UMDNJ). I don't think he had a clue as to what was going to happen athletically or what the fallout could be. I think the new AD, Julie Hermann, does have the requisite skills to do the job (pause - waiting for the cacophony of anti-Julie people to stop screaming). After all, Pernetti was never an AD or in any way in athletic admin. He was a TV exec and did color commentary for RU football. He was, though, well liked and was there when St. James of Delany came a-calling. The fact that he has tire tracks on his back thanks to Barchi is what at least part of the screaming is about. Eventually it will die down, although I don't think she'll be doing any public speaking at any games for a while. It will be a process.
Dave White: A lot of people at Rutgers love the cliche "football drives the bus." Well, for 2 months in the springs, basketball drove the bus. Unfortunately, they almost drove it over the cliff. I think once the national media got the tapes from Eric Murdock, they smelt blood and wouldn't let it go. Mike Rice had to be fired (probably would have been better if he'd resigned), but the Pernetti issue is thorny. In retrospect, with some better PR coaching and some stubbornness (and the politicians staying quiet), Pernetti could have (and should have) survived. That said, at the time I understood it. The outrage was too great. As for what happens next? It's all about winning--if Kyle Flood and Eddie Jordan have some good seasons, no one will really remember this, as a fanbase anyway.
Kevin Recio: I don't wish to continue beating this dead horse, so I'll just say that the media coverage of the scandal was incredibly shoddy and biased. Overblown would be my one word to describe it.
4. Okay, we're coming in for a landing soon. Tell us your favorite memory of Rutgers. Why does that moment stand out to you most?
Bob Cancro: I'm an oldie. My first Rutgers game as an undergrad was the football CENTENNIAL GAME in 1969, which Rutgers won beating Princeton 29-0, a repeat of what they did in 1869 (a game I did not attend). I remember the game, I do not remember much after that! I remember the undefeated 1976 season, the first time in college history that both a school's football and basketball teams went undefeated (BB went to the Final Four, losing first to Michigan - they suck - and then to UCLA in the consolation game). There was the "What's a Rutgers?" game in 1979. RU was moving - glacier like - into big time football and was scheduled to play at Tennessee on their Homecoming; lot's of respect shown by the Orange. A local sportswriter wrote a column, probably not unlike what a few B1G folks might think, titled "What's a Rutgers?" It was a slap at the new kid on the block coming into Neyland Stadium to face the #17 ranked Volunteers. Rutgers won 13-7. The next year, Rutgers played then #1 Alabama at Giants Stadium in front of some 65,000, losing 17-13 as a pass in the endzone just flew past the receiver's fingertips, ending the upset bid. Afterward, Bear Bryant said, "We won the game, but Rutgers beat us. We were as lucky as a three legged dog." One poll had RU at #5 the next week.
Dave White: Everyone would say the 2006 Thursday night football game against Louisville. That's a great night. BUUUUTTTT, to be different, I'm going to go with Rutgers beating Florida at the RAC in basketball back in 2011. It was one of the best games I've ever sat through, with transfer Mike Rosario coming back to town after trashing Rutgers to the media and being awful, to Eli Carter dropping in 30 plus points and winning in double OT. Just a great, adrenaline filled game. It really made fans think the change from bad to good was coming. Unfortunately, Eric Murdock saw it differently and a year and a half later...
Kevin Recio: As the main football writer, I'll always remember Jeremy Ito's kick going through the uprights in 2006. The idea that Rutgers was in the top 10 in the nation after that still blows my mind.
5. And last one. Tell us about the gameday traditions. When Nebraska comes to your stadium in droves, what should we expect to see? Any tailgating? What's the scene like around the stadium?
Bob Cancro: The tailgating is pretty good, though the lots can be far flung. Lots of cooking, lots of noise, lots of fun. We're not an RV type of state (8,729 sq miles; 166 mi N-S; the extreme width E-W is 57 mi.) By comparison, the smallest current B1G state is Indiana at 36,420 square miles. Maryland is half again as large as NJ at 12,407 sq. miles. You can get anywhere in New Jersey within three hours, unless there's traffic. Currently there is no RV lot, so not sure how that will play out with the traveling nature we've heard about in the Big Ten. Most parking in immediate proximity to the stadium is pre-paid and season ticket holders. Likely they'll put the RV folks either at the Athletic Center and bus you in or maybe park the Airstreams, Winnebagos, and Pleasure Ways (Pleasure Ways: who says those Midwesterners don't get down?) across River Road in Johnson Park.
Alcohol is allowed in the parking lots, and while there is a police presence, it's pretty low key unless you really become stupid and start hurting someone. The farther away from the stadium, the lesser your priority points (less money given) and sometimes the rowdier (or cheaper) the crowd. Beware the Blue Lot: young party crowd, and it's not even that far out!
Food at the stadium is....there. Nothing special as of right now, but who knows what the fare will be in 2014. Maybe we'll upgrade. No alcohol inside, unless you're in the Audi Club and that's big ticket folks.
Generally Rutgers fans are fairly civil to opponents, although heavy thrashing of our team could change that.
There are a lot of bars/eateries in the area. Some good local hangouts in New Brunswick (not where the stadium is) are within a 10-15 minute walk of the College Ave campus, where the first game in 1869 was played.
Within 10 minutes walking distance of College Ave campus:
Corner Tavern, 111 Somerset St
Golden Rail Pub, 66 Easton Ave
Scarlet Pub, 131 Easton Ave
Knight Club, 164 Easton Ave
Olde Queens Tavern, 1108 Easton Ave
Olive Branch, 37 Bartlett St
On or off the main drag of New Brunswick (and with 10-15 minute walk of College Ave):
Court Tavern, 124 Church St,
Tumulty's, 361 George St
The Old Bay, 61 Church St
George Street Ale House, 378 George St
Harvest Moon Brewery, 393 George Street
Mike's Courtside Bar & Grill, 1 Elm Row
Old Man Rafferty's, 106 Albany St
And while you're here, eat New Jersey pizza at a pizza place/parlor/joint. Dominoes is not pizza; Pizza Hut is not pizza; Papa John's was created by a guy named John Schnatter; not Tony Razzano or Frankie Lombardi. Schnatter. Enough said. Those three do not serve pizza. Maybe it's a tomato pie, or a variation on pizza, but it is not pizza by New Jersey standards. And almost any pizza place in New Jersey will have good pies.
Dave White: For basketball? The biggest tradition is trying to get to the arena from your car without freezing your toes off. [ed note: And you don't think these guys are B1G enough? Come on.]
Kevin Recio: Gameday traditions are pretty similar to other schools with some personal twists. There's great tailgating around the stadium and I would say that everyone is really friendly to opposing fans. One of my favorite things to do is to get a fat sandwich at the RU Hungry grease trucks and clog my arteries before kickoff. If anyone is up for a challenge, you can get a sandwich named after you if you can down 5 sandwiches of your choice.