Archive for January, 2012
With the news coming out that head coach Greg Schiano has bolted Rutgers for the supposedly greener pastures of the NFL, the immediate concern for Scarlet Knights fans focuses on the program’s future relevance. BCS concerns aside, can Rutgers continue to field even a modestly successful football program (defined here as at the very least an average of 6-8 wins/year).
The historical answer, pre-Schiano/post-1978, is a resounding no. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has won big at Rutgers. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has gotten a firm commitment (read: financial) from Rutgers’ administration to field a winning big-time program.
I didn’t realize this but apparently Rutgers was once an academics-first/only institution. As opposed to fellow northeastern schools Pitt and Pennstate which both boast outstanding academics but also strive to run with the big boys in college football, Rutgers didn’t even put itself in the game. This was the eye-opening passage for me from CFT’s Matt Hinton:
Traditionally, Rutgers belongs to the class of academically oriented schools in the Northeast that disavow the corrupting influence of big-time football: Before Division I was split into “I-A” and “I-AA” classifications in 1978, its schedule consisted overwhelmingly of teams from the Ivy League and the kind of wannabe-Ivy schools that would go on to form the Patriot League — that is, second and third-rate programs that care so little about sports that most of them still don’t offer athletic scholarships.
And Rutgers were mostly successful in that setting. 7, 8, 9-win seasons weren’t uncommon. It was only after trying to join the big boys post-1978 that Rutgers became a laughingstock of a program. In fact, in 1976, Rutgers went 11-0… against a lineup of Navy, Bucknell, Princeton, Cornell, UConn, Lehigh, Columbia, UMass, Louisville, Tulane and Colgate. Four of those schools were non-IA. That team didn’t even go to a bowl game.
By comparison, the 1976 National Champion, who went 12-0, played a schedule consisting of Notre Dame, GA Tech, Temple, Duke, Louisville, Miami-FL, Navy, Syracuse, Army, WVU and Pennstate with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. That team was Pitt. (Hail).
Beano Cook once wrote that if you’d asked him in the early 1970′s to name the programs with the most un-tapped potential, he would have named Miami-FL (duh)… and Rutgers. The strength of northeastern teams from Pitt to Pennstate to Syracuse has often been supplanted with the fantastic talent that comes out of the Garden State. Greg Schiano tapped into that base, to a degree, and it helped him build a modestly successful program. Whether another coach can build on that legacy or even sustain it is debatable.
My guess is that Rutgers fades into semi-irrelevance; partly by choice of not paying ridiculous huge sums to keep up with the Ohio States of the world and partly by being excluded from the big boy conferences upon the demise of the Big East.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
One of my recent tweets: “Adam Graves and the New York Rangers should die of gonorrhea and rot in Hell. Want a cookie, son?”
Seriously? I can’t give up a grudge against Adam Graves (and by extension a New York Rangers franchise that hasn’t done anything meaningful since 1994) based on a cheapshot in the 1992 NHL playoffs? #$%^ no!! The Penguins won the Stanley Cup that year despite Graves’ hit on Lemieux and it’s even possible that the hit galvanised the team and propelled it to those heights. You’re damn right I’m not letting go of my hatred.
And that gets me to thinking about the nature and origins of sports hatred.
It’s pretty common knowledge among my friends that I despise the Cleveland Browns. It’s just the way Pittsburghers are raised. But truth be told, the Browns don’t really deserve to be hated. They haven’t been a true threat since a brief window in the early 1990′s. The cRavens are our real rival nowadays and a worthy one at that.
But I remember that brief, annoying period when the Browns rose up; when Vinny Testaverde was considered a threat to our AFC Central supremacy and the addition of the combustible Andre Rison served to put the Browns (the Browns!) as a chic pic to get to the Superbowl. And so I remember what it’s like to hate the Browns fo’ realz and I hold on to that hatred and nurture it and let it fester and boil.
My mom once told me that for all my hatred, I would probably end up with a girl from Cleveland. What a cruel fate to foresee for her son! Formative years those 1990′s were for Maher’s sports consciousness. I hated Mark Brunell and the Jacksonville Jaguars for a time. I even remember hating the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves for beating my Pirates in the NLCS. Do you remember when Steve Avery was good? I f*ckin’ remember! I’d root for the Yankees over the Braves, damnit!
Now don’t get me wrong. I do hate the Ravens. Arrogant, showboating f*cks all of them! But damn, they’re good. And most of them probably already have gonorrhea anyway.
It’s interesting to see how current rivalries are shaping the sports consciousnesses of Pittsburgh’s youngsters. The Ravens may even win a Superbowl but all teams go through down cycles. Just ask the 1970′s Raiders, the 1980′s Oilers, the 1990′s Browns and Jaguars, etc. And rivalries are generally established of shared excellence not mediocrity.
But those who grew up knowing that raw, raging emotion will forever hold the Ravens in ill-regard. They will remember.
Which brings me back to Adam Graves and the New York Rangers. I f*ckin’ hate the Rangers. No, I mega-loathe them. You see, when I was coming up during Mario Lemieux’s Stanley Cup runs, the Rangers were a primary threat to us. The Flyers were pretty mediocre and though people of good conscience must always hate the Flyers in principle, they didn’t get me worked up that much. They do now but it doesn’t have the force of history, at least for me.
And so 20+ years later, 10-year old Maher still demands even more justice! Yesssss… Adam Graves and the New York Rangers should die of gonorrhea and rot in Hell.
… which is probably quite similar to Cleveland during football season. [steeples fingers malevolently]