As Rutgers Makes Public Relations Gaffes, Those Associated with University Thrilled to Join Big Ten

By Kyle Rowland on May 23, 2014 at 8:30a
24 Comments

There’s been enough bad publicity at Rutgers in the past year to fill an entire edition of the Newark-Star Ledger. Of course, that would upset athletic director Julie Hermann, who told a group of Rutgers journalism students it’d be “great” if the New Jersey newspaper went out of business.

But that was mild compared to other happenings in Piscataway – the Mike Rice incident; Hermann’s hiring; Eddie Jordan’s resume snafu; abuse allegations on the football team; inviting, uninviting and re-inviting Eric LeGrand to speak at graduation and quarterback Phillip Nelson’s assault and dismissal from the team.

Got all that?

That’s as much negative press as Ohio State, Miami and USC received during football-only scandals. Still, there’s a jolt of energy hovering over campus, as coaches, players and fans await the official arrival of Rutgers’ new Big Ten era.

“The fan base is definitely excited,” said Lauren Buckle, a Rutgers alum and season ticket-holder. “Everyone has their ‘R’ magnets on their cars, they have car flags waving, you see ‘R’s’ in everyone’s office all over the place. At least in our home state, everyone’s really excited. There’s a lot of buzz in the air.”

Head football coach Kyle Flood, who recently called the Big Ten and Rutgers “a perfect marriage,” is among the most giddy spectators, and he happens to have a front row seat. It will be an entirely new movie for the State University of New Jersey, with unknown actors and unfamiliar sights. Ohio State and Michigan, Columbus and Ann Arbor differ dramatically from Rutgers’ past landscape.

That’s not to say the Scarlet Knights have been deprived of big-time college football – Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Rich Rodriguez’s West Virginia and Donovan McNabb’s Syracuse are past conference foes – but the weekly grind, super-sized stadiums and passionate fan bases is territory not yet traversed by Rutgers, which played in the first ever college football game – and that’s about where the history stops.

“I think this is going to be a historic year in the history of our university, not just the football program,” said Flood, as he was promoting Rutgers in New York City. “As I’ve said to the team, first impressions count. As a university and as a football program, we want to put the right foot forward immediately as we step into this conference. We understand the challenges, but we’re looking forward to them as well.”

The 2014 recruiting class reflected looming changes. Flood and staff signed 26 players, nine of which are offensive or defensive linemen, six from talent-rich Florida and five from Big Ten states (Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania).

Since Rutgers emerged from its 136-year hibernation in 2005, there have been eight bowl games in nine seasons. Flood took over after Greg Schiano departed for the Buccaneers, having served as his offensive line and assistant head coach. The blue-collar hard-working mentality remained.

The Scarlet Knights win in a fashion that’s still familiar to Ohio State fans – conservative, pro-style offense mixed with a smash-mouth defense. It’s called Tresselball in Buckeye parlance. Rutgers has continued that style – and going to bowl games – under Flood. Even though many would consider it to be a brand of Big Ten football, there’s no guarantee Rutgers will be competitive in the landmine-riddled eastern division.

Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State will be annual opponents on the field and on the recruiting trail. Flood has already taken to calling the Nittany Lions that “team from Pennsylvania.”

Good luck.

“We’re looking forward to [playing in the Big Ten]. I think our players are really looking forward to the challenge,” Flood said on WFAN. “Two years ago, we scheduled a home-and-home with Arkansas. I remember so many people that I ran in to were saying ‘If we could just be competitive.’ I knew we’d be much more than that. We beat them down there, and they came up here and we beat them up here, too. We try to schedule aggressively. We open the year at Washington State, which will be a tremendous challenge.

“As I look at our schedule, 10 of the 11 Division I [teams] on our schedule were bowl-eligible last year. We’re excited about it as a program. As a guy who grew up in the area, to finally have a Big Ten team we can call our own is something I dreamed about as a young person.”

So have fans. On this season’s home schedule are Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. It’s an attractive slate for people used to watching Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida. Simply leaving the Artist Formerly Known as the Big East receives the largest applause.

Rutgers’ one-year stint in the American Athletic Conference didn’t create mass enthusiasm throughout New Jersey. When you start mentioning Big Ten and schools that carry significant national brand recognition, the hype meter rises significantly.

“It’s more moving on to bigger and better things. Just knowing that we’re going to be a part of the Big Ten,” Buckle said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the university as a whole – academics and athletics. But for athletics, it’s a chance for Rutgers to be in the college football limelight next to these huge, powerful teams that we always hear about. Now, we get to share the field with them.

“From a recruiting standpoint, this is going to be great for encouraging talented high school kids to come play and be a Scarlet Knight. Our team is young now, but down the line, it’s going to help our team grow.”

In return, Rutgers will allow the Big Ten to grow. The conference’s footprint now expands from the Great Plains to the Northeast Corridor. Rutgers’ proximity to New York City – the No. 1 media market in the country – made its appeal resemble that of Kate Upton.

Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, two major cable providers in the New York area, recently agreed to terms with the Big Ten Network. Comcast is next in line, and media experts believe the cable titan and BTN will come to a deal before football season.

“It’s really exciting to be New York City’s Big Ten football team,” Flood said. “I think we’ve proven over the time that we are the college football team that moves the needle in New York City. That’s well-documented. I think that will only become greater with the schedule that we’ll have going forward.”

Aside from undesirable news stories, the biggest problem facing Rutgers’ football team is about reality, not perception. In recent seasons, a lack of consistency and late-season breakdowns has stunted the program’s growth. The Scarlet Knights were 7-0 and 9-1 in 2012 before stumbling to a 9-4 record. They lost six of their final eight games a year ago, a 6-7 record marking the first losing season since 2010.

Guess again, though, if you think it’s spoiled the good feelings surrounding Rutgers’ Big Ten rebirth. Season ticket renewals and purchases are at an all-time high and the Oct. 4 night game versus Michigan is being billed as arguably the most anticipated in school history.

Not even a few bad headlines could be a roadblock for this parade.

“The Rutgers community is so much stronger and so much above the poor p.r. choices that someone in an office that works for Rutgers makes,” Buckle said. “We, as fans, are definitely disappointed in the decisions that they’ve made. But it doesn’t make us less proud to be a Scarlet Knight.”

24 Comments

Comments

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I like Rutgers.

There I said it.

+6 HS
Stinson's picture

I still don't get it...

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

BOJ's picture

With these cable deals getting done, it is making sense to me for the long term health of the league.

Shangheyed's picture

Its another way to be competitive for the  BTN against Espin.  NYC spins and having B1G there will help get it right for a change I hope.

ATLBuckeye09's picture

It's rather simple: This had nothing to do with Rutgers & Maryland's competitiveness in the B1G. For BTN to be on the basic plan and also get the highest payout per subscriber in NYC & DC markets, which are both in the top 5 nationally they had to have conference schools within a certain geographical distance. BTN is far and away and will continue to be the #1 conference network in America. eSECpn and their new seCheaters network along with Longhorn network can't even come close to the reach that BTN has already. They are years behind this move started in the mid 2000's! What many don't realize is that the B1G has 49% ownership in BTN. The 51% is Fox Sports. When FS1 gets on a level of competitiveness with eSECpn which will happen then BTN and the B1G will be that much more powerful! Roger Ailes built Fox News into the #1 cable news network in America. When it came out in the mid 90s everyone laughed but they are not laughing anymore. Roger Ailes will do the same thing with what people are laughing at today on FS1. The combination of the B1G's partnership and foresight along with FS1 will make the B1G the strongest athletic conference in America and the seCheaters have no way to stop it!

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

+1 HS
Klytus21's picture

I live in the Philadelphia area and have to deal with PSU fans talking shit all the time.  Please don't let Rutgers ever beat us.

NJBuck

+4 HS
BroJim's picture

I live and Philly and I was thinking the same thing.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
otrain2416's picture

PSU fans are the worst. Most if you ask them will tell you Joe Pa did absolutely nothing wrong and they don't deserve sanctions its a joke. 

+3 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Robert Downey Jr. liked what he was saying.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

VintonCountyBuck's picture
It’s really exciting to be New York City’s Big Ten football team,” Flood said. “I think we’ve proven over the time that we are the college football team that moves the needle in New York City. That’s well-documented. I think that will only become greater with the schedule that we’ll have going forward.”

 

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

+3 HS
IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

Bad publicity aside, I've already gained a little respect for Rutgers football simply for providing Bert with his #karma moment last year. Would love to see them do that to Franklin and Hokester.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+3 HS
HilltopHustle's picture

With the way OSU recruits, Penn State has started to recruit, and Michigan/MSU should recruit, Rutgers better quit playing in the sandbox. Give it 3-4 years and those aforementioned teams are going to be even better (and deeper) than these 2014 teams.

Unky Buck's picture

Rutgers, you're drunk...go home...

 

...

+5 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Rutgers has a good chance to beat MI this year, at least if they continue to play MI football.

+3 HS
Unky Buck's picture

So if UM wins, it's because they weren't playing UM football...sounds about right.

...

+3 HS
TMac's picture

Rutgers beating either PSU or *ichigan this year, and the respective meltdown of the fan base, would just about make up for all the gaffes.

+2 HS
BierStube's picture

Rutgers thrilled ... the rest of the B1G ...

 

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+2 HS
stevebelliseeya's picture
 
Hi Rutgers.

 

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

+5 HS
MGoSilverback's picture

Despite the loss of "tradition", I personally applauded the Big Ten expansion.  Even if Rutgers and MD won't be competitive in football from the start, they bring strong academics and should eventually build their programs with a better, more fulfilling conference.

MGoSilverback

+5 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Rutgers has some pull and made the B1G an offer they couldnt refuse...

Cable $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

 

+1 HS
DannyBeane's picture

The one plus side of Rutgers is they give me another school to root against Ped State with.

Hovenaut's picture

Zzzz....wha?

Great Rutgers. Good on you.
Me sitting through a boring meeting...

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

+1 HS