And that is we learned that Rutgers Football is now a program.
I started to develop interest in Rutgers football in 2005. I am not a Rutgers alum, but I was a college football fan living in New York City. I tried to pay attention to Rutgers in the past. It was just too pathetic to watch. But, it always piqued my interest because there was no game in town. Syracuse is not NYC's team. Notre Dame and Penn State were the most prominent, but NYC did not have ownership over those teams. Rutgers just made too much logical sense.
In 2005, the Brian Leonard hype was building. I started to hear more about Greg Schiano as the guy that might give the program a fighting chance out of misery. All I wanted was Rutgers to be mediocre just so I can feel compelled to follow and root for a single team. At that time, I was a young practicing lawyer. All my other colleagues had their teams from Michigan to USC to Texas. I wasn't interested in being any of them. I wanted to rep something for myself.
in 2006, I got more than mediocrity. NYC had excitement. And, in that magical November moment, Rutgers became the talk of the town. New Yorkers were willing to openly adopt for a moment Rutgers football as their team.
I started to scour the internet more intensely for more information on the team. Ironically, the first two places I found were this blog's predecessor BleedScarlet and Scarlet Nation. The information was amazing. I became obsessed with each and every nuance of the team. Who was this Anthony Davis kid? Kenny Britt flipped from Ron Zook - The Florida Master Recruiter? Art motherfrigging Forst. And, who the hell is this nutjob RutgersAl.
In my building obsession, I felt an immediate sense of adoration for Coach Greg Schiano. This was a throwback to the days of legendary coaches that helped define programs - Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant, Spurrier. I learned he was an indeed a great man with a rock solid vision. From there, I went from looking for an excuse to find a NYC team to adopt to wanting to be a part of something special.
I decided to pay for my first subscription to Rivals after a few years of lurking - mostly due to the Mfoti incident. But, in my first post, I wrote about a 10 page introduction explaining that I bleed scarlet because of Greg Schiano. I wanted to support his vision. I wanted to let my colleagues know exactly why this program was so special - Greg Schiano.
Since 2006, it hasn't exactly been a straight upwards trajectory. We experienced lots of growing pains. But, in between, the program kept getting better after each and every bump. It was really hard to give up because you just felt that something better would happen if you waited one more turn.
That up and down however was pretty frustrating. But, Schiano figured out ways to find one more way to make the program better overall. Just when we thought we were one class away from solidifying RU Football into a feared recruiting machine, we got hit with a brick in the form of a tweet five days before signing day.
All day our eyes were glued to the internet. We were in shock, disbelief, anger. (Yes, PSU schmucks, I'm diluting your BS PR memes because you are cowards). We wanted to know what GS's departure would mean to the program - our biggest fear was that it would lead to implosion. We'd lose recruits, key players would transfer, no one would trust Rutgers, Rutgers wasn't ready for transition. We've watched Pitt, Penn State, Maryland, etc become utter shells of themselves.
As the day progressed, we learned something really important. Greg Schiano does not define the program anymore. Rutgers Football is now its own brand, program and attitude. We are not going to implode over the loss of a coach as other schools have. Think about it.
Jersey kids want to rep New Jersey and play football at Rutgers. That'll keep going on. Jersey coaches wanted a Jersey guy to rep the area because they want to be tied into the program.
We have an athletic administration that is now viewed as a benchmark for professionalism in college athletics. They are responsive, work around the clock and understand the fanbase and media. That institutional knowledge and capital carries over for years and years. It's what makes business grow and survive.
We have thousands of fans that regularly post on two major Rutgers dedicated recruiting sites. RU football news is reported by the millisecond these days because there is a demand set by die hard fans
Today, I was on an insane amount of message boards, email lists and phone calls trying to get the best information on the current situation. At the end of the day, it ended up being a perfect day for all of us to just simply get a beer together and discover, we have a legit community and program (*sidenote* in a lot of our frantic info exchanges, I ended up learning I had more in common with OnTheBank's main editor). We have enough people who care and are dedicated to Rutgers football that we know that Rutgers Football will exist tomorrow, the day after and for years to come.
We learned from Penn State that the cult of personality is a dangerous thing. But, in our shock, disbelief, anger (which is an appropriate reaction here, and an underreaction for covering up pedophile for football glory), we were ready to move on and not abandon Rutgers football. Of course, Greg Schiano did the very thing that we all really wanted: respect.
More importantly, we learned we can turn to Rutgers football tomorrow and the day after. Tim P. has a big challenge ahead of him with the coaching search. However, one thing us fans have not been saying but deep down know, the next coach inheriting a winning football team - as opposed to past expectations of "please take us out of the dumps." While Schiano was our guy, he wasn't Rutgers Football. He's just simply one of us, a part of a real, bona-fide football program.