Here we are at the end of March, a little under two years after Rutgers officially became a member of the Big Ten conference. As we look ahead to Rutgers' future in this conference, it is important to look back at how far we've come in order to gain an even greater appreciation for these past few months.
It cannot be stated enough how much of a life raft being invited to join the Big Ten was for Rutgers. We were in a newly named conference that provided us with very little growth to increase our brand, and even less athletics tradition. Our athletics department was mired in the worst financial situation of any Division 1 program in the country. Regardless of the motives for the Big Ten seeking to add Rutgers (NYC media market), we were more than eager to hop on in and the move was not contested by anyone of major importance to Rutgers.
The pomp and circumstance of our entrance announcement was short lived when the axe came crashing down on head men's basketball coach Mike Rice and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. These events were the start of a massive athletics landscape change for Rutgers and it would take nearly three years to get it right, but the dust has finally settled and things are actually looking brighter than ever for Rutgers' future.
Below is a long and comprehensive timeline of major events, both positive and negative for Rutgers since it was announced that we would be joining the Big Ten conference . (Rutgers fans, reading this might trigger some heavy feelings, so you've been warned)
Rutgers' (rocky) road to the future
- November 20, 2012-- Official announcement is made that Rutgers would be gaining full membership into the Big Ten in 2014.
- December 13, 2012-- Rutgers Head Men's Basketball Coach Mike Rice is suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for abusive behavior towards players.
- December 28, 2012-- Rutgers goes to the Russell Athletic Bowl at 9-3, and loses to Virginia Tech 10-13 in overtime. Finishes season 9-4.
- April 2, 2013-- ESPN airs Outside the Lines which brought Mike Rice's actions towards players into the national spotlight.
- April 3, 2013-- Mike Rice is fired.
- April 5, 2013-- Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is forced to resign.
- April 18, 2013-- Eddie Jordan, a basketball player at Rutgers from 1973-1977, assistant coach for the Lakers, is hired as Rutgers' 18th head basketball coach.
- May 10 2013-- It is revealed that Eddie Jordan had never gotten his degree from Rutgers.
- May 14, 2013-- Julie Hermann, the executive senior associate athletic director at the University of Louisville, is hired as Rutgers' athletic director.
- May 25, 2013-- Abuse allegations against Julie Hermann by members of the volleyball team she coached at the University of Tennessee from 1992-1997 come to light.
- May 26, 2013-- Details of a 1997 pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee due to Hermann was also thrust into public view.
- August 29, 2013-- Rutgers opens its first and last football season in the newly created American Athletic Conference (AAC). Loses to Fresno State 51-52 in overtime.
- November 8, 2013-- Rutgers Men's basketball regular season opener with Eddie Jordan as head coach. Won against Florida A&M 92-84.
- December 28, 2013-- Rutgers goes to the Pinstripe Bowl at 6-6. Loses to Notre Dame 16-29, finishes season 6-7.
- March 13, 2014-- First Basketball season with Eddie Jordan as head coach finishes 12-21, 5-13 in the AAC.
- April 7, 2014-- It is brought to the public's attention that Julie Hermann said, "it would be great if the' Star Ledger' went out of business," just a week after nearly 170 employees were let go.
- July 1, 2014-- Rutgers hosts event at High Point Solutions Stadium in celebration of our official entrance into the Big Ten Conference. B1G Commissioner Jim Delany is present. He says optimistic words about Rutgers' future.
- August 28, 2014-- Rutgers' first season in the Big Ten commences with a win over Washington State.
- September 13, 2014-- Rutgers loses at home to Penn State 10-13 in heartbreaking fashion.
- September 15, 2014-- Rutgers fans are criticized for flying inappropriate flags and wearing shirts which said "Beat Ped State." Julie Hermann issues apology to Penn State.
- September 19, 2014-- It is revealed that Julie Hermann made a tasteless Sandusky remark at a staff meeting.
- October 4, 2014-- Rutgers gains its first Big Ten win and first ever win over Michigan, 26-24. Students and fans stormed the field.
- November 16, 2014-- Rutgers men's basketball's regular season opener, Eddie Jordan's second season as coach, and first in the Big Ten against George Washington. Rutgers loses 53-70.
- December 26, 2014-- Rutgers goes to the Quick Lane Bowl at 7-5 and smokes North Carolina 40-21. Finished first season in the Big Ten 8-5.
- December 30, 2014-- Big Ten regular season in basketball starts. 47-51 loss to Northwestern.
- January 11, 2015-- Rutgers upsets number 4 Wisconsin in stunning 67-62 win at the RAC. The court is stormed.
- March 11, 2015-- Rutgers finished its first basketball season in the Big Ten 10-22, 2-16 in the Big Ten.
- May 15, 2015-- Eddie Jordan graduates with his Bachelor of Science degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations from Rutgers University.
- August 25, 2015-- Football head coach Kyle Flood faces possible suspension/firing for having "impermissible contact" with a faculty member over the status of Nadir Barnwell, a talented and key cornerback. Five Rutgers players, including quarterback Chris Laviano and wide receiver Leonte Carroo are suspended for the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State for curfew violations.
- September 3, 2015-- Five Rutgers players who were arrested in connection with a home invasion back in April are suspended from the team.
- September 5, 2015-- Rutgers Football's second season in the Big Ten opens with a 63-13 win over Norfolk State. Rutgers dismisses the five suspended players from the team.
- September 13, 2015-- Leonte Carroo, arguably Rutgers' most key player, is suspended from the team due to alleged involvement in an altercation which occurred after the Washington State game.
- September 16, 2015-- Kyle Flood is suspended for three games and fined $50,000 after a university-led investigation.
- September 26, 2015-- Rutgers wins its first homecoming in four years. Beat Kansas Jayhawks 27-14.
- October 7, 2015-- Charges dropped against Carroo and he is reinstated.
- October 10, 2015-- Rutgers Football is mocked in media after spiking the ball on 4th down and losing the opportunity to possibly go into overtime against Michigan State.
- October 17, 2015-- Kyle Flood's three game suspension is over and he returns to beat Indiana in a stunning 25 point comeback.
- November 13, 2015-- Rutgers Basketball season opens with a 72-59 win over Rutgers-Newark.
- November 28, 2015-- Rutgers finishes season 4-8, 1-7 on the Big Ten by blowing a 23 point lead to Maryland. No bowl game for Rutgers for the first time since 2010, and only the second time in ten years.
- November 29, 2015-- Rutgers President Robert Barchi fires Kyle Flood and Julie Hermann. Seton Hall Dean of Law, Pat Hobbs is named Rutgers' new Athletic Director.
- December 7, 2015-- Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is named as Rutgers' new head football coach.
- December 30, 2015-- Big Ten regular season in basketball begins. 72-79 loss to Indiana.
- January 20, 2016-- A $100 million campaign is launched to bring Rutgers' facilities up to par with the rest of the Big Ten conference. Chris Ash, Pat Hobbs, and Eddie Jordan all donate $50,000 to jump start the campaign.
- March 5, 2016-- Rutgers gets its first and only Big Ten win of the season by beating Minnesota 75-52 on Senior Day.
- March 9, 2016-- Rutgers men's basketball finishes its second season in the Big Ten Conference at 7-25, 1-17 in the Big Ten.
- March 10, 2016-- Eddie Jordan is fired.
- March 19, 2016-- Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook's head basketball coach, is announced as Rutgers' new men's basketball coach.
An Upward Trend
The last few months have been some of the most positive in Rutgers' history since it was decided to abruptly change its direction as a university and incorporate a larger athletics aspect into its operation. Like a grades transcript, an upward trend matters and doing well at the end can really distance yourself from a few bad early semesters. I'd argue that these recent changes do more than just distance themselves from the events prior, and it may be fair to suggest that they erase them entirely. The slate is cleaned.
Football season ticket purchases and renewals have skyrocketed since Chris Ash was announced as our new head football coach. Alumni donations are also up and Pat Hobbs has designed initiatives for the purpose of re-engaging any apathetic and discouraged alumni. Fans are eager to see a defense emulating Ohio State's in tandem with an explosive, dynamic offense utilizing players' strengths thanks to the first class assistant coaches team Ash put together. Chris Ash has received nothing but praise since his appointment as Rutgers' football coach.
I think he may be the best hire of the cfb season. https://t.co/AGwqywdXgH— Armen Keteyian (@ArmenKeteyian) February 22, 2016
Described as giving the "single most impressive interview" that Pat Hobbs has experienced, Ash brings youth, excitement, talent, and a prime coaching legacy to Rutgers that we have not seen since Greg Schiano (and Ash is arguably more impressive). Only time will tell, but Chris Ash is trying to build a program at Rutgers that will model one of the greatest programs in college football history. Those from the Urban Meyer coaching tree do well-- just take a look at Tom Herman and Houston this past season. Fans are eager to see what a defensive mind from this tree is capable of as head coach. Ash has stated numerous times that the first thing he is changing is the culture and he's planning on building a "first class program" based on competition and teamwork. It is clear that these ideals have already taken as the @RFootball Twitter account is booming with intense and inspiring videos showing the team grinding as they prepare for our spring game and our 3rd Big Ten season. Rutgers Football fans have every reason to be excited to see what their Scarlet Knights are going to put on that field.
(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)
Steve Pikiell is the next pivotal piece in Rutgers' upward trend. Fresh off of a 26-7 season (14-2 in conference) and an NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky, Steve Pikiell seems like the man for the job in turning Rutgers' struggling basketball program around. Pikiell played as point-guard at UConn from 1987-1981 and was captain for two years. In his two years as captain, UConn advanced to the "Elite Eight" and "Sweet Sixteen," respectively. Pikiell has had many coaching stops, but perhaps his most established position of learning was at George Washington University where he was assistant coach under Karl Hobbs, a fellow UConn alum from 2001-2005. GWU made it to the NIT in their 2003-04 season, and the NCAA Tournament in their 2004-05 season.
Pikiell was named the 10th head coach at Stony Brook in April 2005, and he and the Seawolves suffered through three straight losing seasons before finally seeing a winning season in 2008-09. It was all uphill from here and from 2011-2016, Pikiell and the Seawolves won three America East regular season titles and this year was their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. He is clearly a coach that can turn a program around. It's just a question of his ability to recruit NJ and NY basketball talent. Given his solid footing in the Northeast, I don't foresee him having any major issues.
Steve Pikiell as Rutgers' 19th head basketball coach gives fans a lot to be excited about. Pikiell seems to have amassed a loyal following as well, with his appointment to his new position receiving tons of praise and support from Stony Brook fans, players, and even UConn fans. This is a good sign and it speaks volumes about Pikiell's character and personality. I believe Rutgers basketball's future is in good hands.
The Most Important Piece
Notice how the title of this article is "Rutgers' Slate Has Been Cleaned" as opposed to, "Rutgers Has Cleaned its Slate." To be honest, it was our new Athletic Director who truly orchestrated all of these recent changes for the better. I believe Pat Hobbs is the most home run hire of the decade for Rutgers and one of the most important hires in our history. Hobbs has clear vision and savvy when it comes to fundraising, media, public perception, and financial expertise which is what Rutgers' athletic department sorely needs. No doubt that over the next few years Pat Hobbs will rise to the ranks of AD greats as he works to turn around an athletics department plagued with troubles. Pat Hobbs is intelligent, shows poise, class, and character and with his athletics leadership at Rutgers, the future is indeed bright. The new faces of Rutgers athletics also come at a pivotal time in Rutgers' history. Pat Hobbs, Chris Ash, and Steve Pikiell are the right leaders of the most key aspects of the Rutgers Athletic Department as Rutgers University looks to celebrate an amazing landmark-- its 250th Anniversary on November 10, 2016.
Our Athletics Future
Once basketball gets to its feet and football is brought up to a competitive level, Rutgers will sit comfortably in the Big Ten. Our 10th ranked wrestling team just finished an outstanding season with Anthony Ashnault and Anthony Perrotti both receiving All-American honors coming in 4th and 8th, respectively, in their weight classes for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Women' soccer made it to the semifinals of the Women's College Cup and our men's soccer team finished 3rd in the conference. Our women's basketball team secured yet another WNIT bid and made it to second round. New and updated facilities are on their way and with that, Rutgers' other sports will begin to step up to the plate. Rutgers has
almost entirely purged itself of those that were around and responsible for our brief "dark ages," so we have nowhere else to go, but forward.
We are on our way.