And onto Pittsburgh!
The most anxiety ridden, Babbs-esque fans of our Rutgers faithful have finally found one occasion to sit back, crack open a beer and feel satisfied about the state of our athletics programs. Many of our modern recruits (particularly those from New Jersey) had a great deal of respect for the Rutgers program, but as a Big East brand, the sell was harder for our coaching staff. Internally, the politics and economics of a marquee football program fragmented (IMO needlessly) our communities. The B1G move is as close to a cure all as it gets. The only real question moving forward is athletic performance and adjustments in a very competitive league.
The journey has been tumultuous. But, we've learned many things about our program going through this ride. Enough cannot be said about the leadership and confidence of those who made the most of a very anxious situation. For that, I am very thankful for a lot of different persons who have taken my recent Rutgers fanhood into stability and relevancy.
For my Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the following in 2012:
Tim Pernetti - The obvious choice. Not enough could be said about his leadership and confidence. Conference realignment was really out of our direct control, and the Big East leadership was out of control even with our seat at the table. For realignment, Tim P stayed on message, sold our strengths and prevented any setbacks that could endanger any potential invites to the B1G.
I am more thankful to Tim P more for making Rutgers athletics more about a community than a single person (*cough* Schiano *cough*). Since Schiano's departure, he has been the friendly face of RU Athletics. He understands ambassadorship and that as AD, he is the head cheerleader. Our athletics' message has long been begrudged, mechanical and inaccessible. He understood that outreach and inclusion was key to improving our status within the RU community and to the mainstream. Yet, he did not lose the gravitas and discipline that is often associated with Schiano. I *was* a big Schiano fan (still am, but in a very reserved way). Tim, on the other hand, made being part of a community fun and welcoming. Not enough can be said about how he made Rutgers football engaging apart from the on the field product.
Scarlet Nation's Staff - Except for the legacy blog (Bleed Scarlet) of OnTheBanks.com, Scarlet Nation was my first internet destination for Rutgers football. John Otterstedt built it from scratch. He was not a journalist and was more focused on basketball. The original site was actually just a one page elementary school project for his students. The fanbase there is absolutely nuts and frustrating, but he stuck it out. Over time, he built up a great hub for discussion, community and news. John O still has his day job as a teacher, and he sounds like a hell of a dad. However, him and his staff were at the core of building up Rutgers modern fanbase. It's digital, it's younger, and it's diehard. We're somewhat bourgeois in the college football world, but without a true legacy, we didn't have a true homebase for fandom. We turned to the internet, and Scarlet Nation was there from the start. Now, they're at the center of our new beginnings.
The Rehabilitation of Tom Luicci - Tom Luicci is a twitter natural. If you've followed him and thought he was anti-Rutgers, your opinion of him would change for the better. He's unabashed about his opinions, especially about what he believes would make Rutgers better. He's not anti-Rutgers, he just has a shitty opinion every so often that is more about passion for the program. He's just a pro-Rutgers curmudgeon. Going back to his twitter, read it. He's gone hard against all unfair critics of Rutgers football. His sharp wit and biting style has been more forceful against Rutgers detractors through twitter, where it would it a waste of time to write more than 150 characters.
Class of 2012 - Our greatest single recruiting class in Rutgers history. They understood the vision. They were confident within themselves and self-assurance beyond their years. While a lot of credit for that attitude started with 2011's class, the '12ers hammered it away by sticking together even after Schiano's departure. That's some serious courage.
Myles Nash and Anthony Cioffi (among others) - If there was a single class where Big East affiliation hurt us, it was this year. However, from what I observed, Messrs. Nash and Cioffi took the torch to be recruiting leaders of this year's recruiting class. We were a bit spoiled with the past two classes when it comes to scouting service rankings. With Barnwell and Miller, our class is now rounding out nicely. I'm not a recruiting expert, but those who I have spoken to (and highly respect) assure me that this is a better class than the rankings say.
Nash and Cioffi, nonetheless, took it to the streets to help build the '13 class to what it is now. Nash, in particular, was bold and brash about rallying his co-recruits. (sidenote: Leaving aside the awkwardness of following kids on twitter, the exchanges between Nash and his coach Rob Hinson just crack me up. It reminds me of the relationship that Parcells had with Bryan Cox during their time with the Jets.( Cioffi was a little more low key, but very diligent and public. Others were highly involved, but Nash and Cioffi get my thankful distinction.
Eric LeGrand - He will walk.
Khaseem Greene - He's making the inner-NJ-city story right. One of NJ's biggest problems is turning our urban areas around. Corey Booker's been great (boo Stanford, says my Cal wife) with his passion for Newark. But, Greene's story will have better grassroots impact. I believe it. Greene's been around the worst of it. He's getting out of it without leaving Jersey. Through Rutgers, I just have to believe that more kids out of Newark/Elizabeth/JC would be able to visualize their own success through Greene's path and understand it beyond athletics. It's been a compelling story beyond his beastly defensive performance, and I look forward to hearing more about it when he hits the NFL.
Others that I will have to shout out for thanks - Kyle Flood, Jason Baum, Frank Burns, and RutgersAl. Happy Thanksgiving. Beat Pitt!