That was the most painful loss I experienced since I graduated from Rutgers (it was painful through the TV, but I have experienced equally painful games in person). This Eastern Michigan game was just…. insult is added to injury by the fact that Rutgers gave the Eagles its first Big Ten win and first P5 win in their program history, so we have the entire Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-12 collectively tapping their feet at us as we cower in the corner with maximum chagrin.
I Tweeted this on Tuesday before the game:
So... I don't want to jinx anything.— Zuzu RU (@ZuzuOnFire) September 5, 2017
But I just want you all to know that I'm scared AF for the Eastern Mich game this week.
And then this on game day:
I am terrified for this game today. Grateful, that I will be unable to watch it. I'll be serving hungry Hokies for their Game Day.— Zuzu RU (@ZuzuOnFire) September 9, 2017
My instincts rarely let me down, but I really wish they did in this case. Even though I anticipated this loss, it still hurt me so much. I found myself getting physically angry on Saturday after the game, kicking and scuffing the ground, hitting walls, uggghhhhh-ing, and just constantly shaking my head (and I still am).
Two years into the Ash Era and I just sit here pondering and saying, “well, now what?” My esteemed colleague Dave White from On the Banks pointed out in his article that Ash’s coaching career has started out very similar to Greg Schiano’s: taking over a program wrought in turmoil, bad first two years with homologous, embarrassing losses. I respect Dave and initially agreed with his take, but the more I sat and thought about it the less I agreed. Both the bad and prime years of the Schiano era occurred over a decade ago. College Football has changed a lot since then, and while some may argue it hasn’t exactly changed for the better, it’s a different machine now regardless. Teams don’t have time, and fans don’t have the patience for a slow rebuild anymore—in spite of that being what a team actually needs. And you see that’s the weird mental state I am in right now with Rutgers Football. I KNOW deep down that getting Rutgers to a Big Ten caliber program is a process, and a process that will take time. Then, I peer around at coaches that just walk into programs and turn them right around and am just baffled and envious. Brohm at Purdue, Durkin at Maryland, Fuente at Virginia Tech, to name a few. I look at these programs and literally think, “Jesus f******* Christ, why can’t that be us??” It’s not our talent or “lack” thereof that holds us back either. I just don’t believe that. We have talent and any highlight reel demonstrates such. Teams with top tier talent have a natural win security when it comes to the games they play, absolutely, but there are teams that lack players with the “stars” that do fine against teams with “better talent”—case in point was Eastern Michigan, who’s recruiting ranking was #116 in 2015 and #121 in 2016. It’s NOT players for Rutgers Football, it’s coaches, it’s always been the coaches. Why can’t we be one of those schools that hits a coaching gold mine?? Why not Rutgers? It’s absurd and frustrating beyond all reason and I’m sick of it. This is ridiculous.
I am a Rutgers Football fan. Contrary to the popular notion ‘round these parts that Rutgers has always been a bad team, it has not and I among other RU fans are just not used to this level of bad in recent times. The constant rehashing and rehashing of Rutgers being bad started to sink in, but NOOOOOO. F*** that. I won’t let it in. In just 2 years we went from, "Wow, 8-5 their first year in the Big Ten! Wins against Michigan, Indiana, and Maryland," to "lol buttgers." It’s ridiculous and I blame a lot of people, but more on that later.
It’s 2017, just five seasons ago Rutgers Football claimed a share of the Big East Conference championship. And yes, I know that the Big East was a different conference than the Big Ten, but geez, it wasn’t that different. West Virginia moved to the Big 12 in 2012, Syracuse to the ACC in 2013, Louisville to the ACC in 2014, Pittsburgh to the ACC in 2013. So let’s please dispense with, “Rutgers was playing cupcake teams before they joined the Big Ten.” Unfortunately, the Rutgers team that lost to Eastern Michigan on Saturday is a far cry from the 9-3 team of my freshman year in 2012 that went toe-to-toe with Virginia Tech through overtime in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And this team is a farther cry from the more recent 8-5 team of 2014 that easily took care of North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl and made the Big Ten nod in slight respect. I was in the marching band for all of my four years at Rutgers, and our director told us to expect postseason travel and to tell our families early that we’d be traveling around the holidays. THAT was the Rutgers Football I knew. Rutgers was a good team for nearly a decade leading up to our 4-8 season in 2015. Yeah, it was relative to what Rutgers fans knew in the Big East, but it is still hard to accept our current despondent state of football.
Rutgers choked away a bowl game in my senior year by allowing a comeback win from Maryland (we would’ve gone via APR). But that year? Bah, that was just a fluke. Scandal had taken away a lot of our players and won us the Fulmer Cup in 2015, but whatever, we’ll come back. Immediately after that game, Rutgers President Bob Barchi announced the search for a new Athletic Director and Football Coach. The Hermann-Flood era was no more. Thank goodness, right? Yes. Partially. Out of this mayhem came an Athletic Director who will no doubt go down in history as one of the greatest AD’s Rutgers has ever seen. I love you Pat Hobbs.
And to be honest, I like Chris Ash a lot. This is NOT an article demanding his firing and I think anyone calling for his job after only the second game in his second season is a little ahead of themselves, but... I still find myself asking, “why not us?” when looking at how other teams experience a coaching change. Ash has a lot to learn and maybe he will, in fact, learn it and help Rutgers fans forget about this EMU loss and our two win 2016 football season. Until he demonstrates that he is incapable of this, I am invested in the “Ash Era.” However, at this point, I’m also invested in the Ash Era because another coaching change is risking another start from scratch. It took two years to get where we are now. I don’t want to go through another two of writing:
“This is what (insert new coach) did at X football program. This is what he might do at Rutgers. But I don’t actually know for sure because college football is fickle and stupid like that.”
The last thing I’m going to share with you all is who I blame for this mess. And yes, there is always someone to blame. First person I blame is Mike Rice. Yes, Mike Rice, the infamous Rutgers Basketball Coach who yelled slurs at his players and threw basketballs at them. Tim Pernetti, RU’s athletic director at the time who orchestrated our Big Ten entrance, wound up being scapegoated because of his “poor” handling of Rice’s punishment and was canned right alongside Rice, but SOMEHOW, Bob Barchi, RU’s president at the time, avoided the same fate. BOB went ahead and hired Julie Hermann, a moderately unlikable AD with her own set of controversial baggage that NJ.com feasted upon for two and a half years which pitted Rutgers University and the New Jersey media against each other (and the effects of this are still felt). Hermann, the AD who oversaw Kyle Flood somehow allowed him to break enough rules right under her nose that Rutgers was handed a big ‘ol Notice of Allegations by the NCAA for SEVEN possible violations including a Level II violation (considered “major”) which our CURRENT Athletic Department administration has to deal with. Who is the common denominator in all of this? Bob Barchi, President of Rutgers U. I like him as the Rutgers President on the academics end, truly. However, the Athletic Department decisions which are ultimately controlled by him have been disastrous and I honestly see no less than five years for Rutgers to recover from them. Now granted, I’m young and so five years is a lot to me and probably not a lot to the Rutgers fans who endured Terry Shea as an example, but five years should be a lot for any Rutgers fans in this new era of Power Five college football. We just don’t have five years. In five years, if we’re solidified as the Big Ten’s doormat, it will take ten to move up from there if we even can. And as far as THIS season goes, it’s ridiculous that we can’t look ahead to any games— not Purdue, Indiana, Maryland, or even Illinois and be confident in a win. It’s all ridiculous.
Well, that’s my rant.
And to all those who keep saying, "Why are you surprised? It’s Rutgers."
This isn’t my Rutgers.
In the meantime...