"We're halfway there."
Bon Jovi sang it well.
Rutgers has been livin' on an answered prayer for the past year, joining the premiere athletic conference and academic consortium in the land. We're going toe to toe with the National Champions, taking on regional rivals that have true history and prestige, and finally able to project a future from a position of strength and stability.
However, we're only halfway there.
With the rise in prestige comes a parallel rise in competition level. We saw it in football and perhaps even more profoundly in the Olympic sports. We get to go head-to-head with the best of the best, but the results can be sobering.
The other half - the monetary half - won't be here until 2020, so we're playing against a stacked deck in the interim. Our peer institutions have been receiving fat checks from Uncle B1G for decades, so we have a lot of ground to cover.
The good news for Rutgers fans? We have a lot of built-in advantages that point to a bright future; a future where the original college football program fights for Big Ten championships on a yearly basis with the Ohio States of the league and takes on the Alabamas of the world for the Playoff.
Yes, that's right. Rutgers will be on top of the football world in our lifetime. Rutgers will be the next great college football dynasty.
Why, you ask? How, you wonder? Let's take a look at The Rutgers Advantage and see why the Scarlet Knights will be the next great college football dynasty.
Rutgers Advantage #1: Critical Mass
To start, The State University of New Jersey is a large, prestigious university that is undergoing a massive reinvention with the re-integration of its medical school, infrastructure reinvestment in all three of its major campuses, and a cultural revolution being driven in part by affiliation with the Big Ten Athletic conference. At 65,000 undergrad and graduate students, it has decent mass in and of itself, but is certainly not a behemoth by any stretch. Adding in 460,000 Alumni factors into the equation as well.
However, we're not just talking about the University here. We're talking about the football team and in the great state of New Jersey, there's only one FBS football team: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Students from Stevens to Stockton root for Rutgers as the local college football team, bringing the total addressable market to 436,110.
However, that's not the entire market, now is it? Expanding our consideration out one step further, the overall demographic market the Knights call home is the #1 DMA in the states, and its not really that close. 7,000,000+ households as potential fans, supporters and participants of the program.
What's that? No local interest you say? Nate Silver would disagree.
Again, other states might have a higher overall population, but those with larger populations (the Californias and Texases) have numerous in-state programs competing for attention. While some hillbilly yokels down in South Jersey might root for the team from pennsylvania, the only major program in-state is none other than the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
When building any dynasty, a solid base of fans, potential players, and supporters is critical. In New Jersey, Rutgers has this potential well in hand, with more growth on the horizon.
Rutgers Advantage #2: Recruiting
Year in, year out, New Jersey is consistently one of the top states for producing FBS caliber talent. Football Study Hall ranks Jersey as the #13 state for producing FBS recruits, churning out 47 players per year at the highest level of collegiate competition.
Again, the difference here - yep, we're hitting this point one more time - Rutgers has no other in-state FBS competition. Per SB Nation's own Pete Volk:
Three states are considered college football's recruiting elites: California, Florida, and Texas. There's one problem: each has at least seven FBS programs.
So which states have the most FBS talent per program?...
...Leading is New Jersey, with 44.4 FBS-level recruits per year and just one program, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights don't have a history of championships, but there's more than enough talent to sustain a successful program.
So why doesn't Rutgers have the State of New Jersey locked down?
For one, the prior generation of Rutgers football was pretty bad. Pre-Greg Schiano, a generation of football fans grew up with Rutgers either playing small ball (50's, 60's and 70's) or playing pretty poorly (80's and 90's). That mindset has been pervasive through the players considering joining the program, the parents guiding those decisions and the coaches informing the process. The traditional line of thinking; the reflexive reaction to the TSONJ football program: "Rutgers Stinks."
That said, we're already starting to see that mentality shift. Today's players have never known anything but those most recent generation of Rutgers football where the Knights have been competitive, exciting, and occasionally dominant. The parents, slower to shift, have seen the success on the field and the academic rigor off the field. That ship is turning. The coaches are becoming closer by the year with the Rutgers staff, one that had in past generations alienated local football leaders. All perceptions are starting to change. The sleeping giant stirs.
Finally, recruiting is reactive. When programs are successful, recruiting improves. It's a hell of a positive feedback loop, but one that Rutgers has already reaped the rewards of and one that will continue to be impacted by the above and below points.
Rutgers Advantage #3: Funding
A lot of #1 and #2 are dependent on #3: Increased Funding.
Kyle Flood is the lowest paid coach in the B1G at around $1 million. The average Big Ten salary is $2.8 million. There's a significant delta there. We've seen a correlation between coach salaries and winning. It's common sense that hiring the best in the business gives you a better chance to succeed.
Likewise, we've seen a correlation between increased funding and winning. In 2020 Rutgers will have completed the transition from $2.7 million per year from the American to a projected $45 million per year from the Big Ten (a number that will be heavily influenced by Rutgers ability to deliver the largest DMA in the country...yeah yeah and Maryland with DC Metro blah blah).
In 2020, everything will begin to change. Coaching staff salaries will reflect that scope. Facilities will be brought in line with Big Ten standards. Recruiting will be on par with top tier programs around the country.
That said, everything will not change overnight. Let's assume that by 2025, 50% of the big improvements to the program have been made; 50% of that massive windfall realized after a full recruiting class has gone through the program. By 2030, we can assume closer to 90% or more of that increase will be utilized.
With that third point in mind, let's make some bold predictions.
2030: The Age of Rutgers
In addition to Rutgers reasserting itself as one of the top educational institutions in the world, the Scarlet Knights will, over the next 15 years, ascend to the top of the football world. Mark my words:
By 2030, The State University of New Jersey will host a top tier football program; Rutgers Football will be the next great football dynasty.
What does that mean? It means top 10 recruiting classes annually. It means top 25 finishes every year, top 10 finishes most years. It means competing for the Big Ten Championship every year late into the season and being in the playoff chase annually. It means setting records for viewership and academic-athletic achievement. It means introducing the world to a new football dynasty.
In other words, it means prepare for Buttgers.
FRIDAY - Self Hate: "Are You Rutgers?" by Sportsthodoxy's Richard Dansky