Rutgers Football: The Problem With "Drives The Bus"

Ronald Martinez

Let's get this out of the way: I like football. I enjoy watching the sport. I'm very happy to go to games and cheer like mad for the Scarlet Knights. The 2006 game against Louisville was the best sporting event I've ever been to. Okay? All right. Good.

Ever since Rutgers made the move toward Big Time football and hired Greg Schiano, there's been a phrase that's made its way around the Banks.  "Football Drives the Bus."

I hate this phrase.

Hate it.

And here's why.

It's a Cliche

I'm a writer.  I've published 4 novels, a ton of short stories, and numerous articles about Rutgers, education and crime fiction.  I write a ton, and if there's one thing you learn as a writer is "cliches suck."  Any editor worth their salt will make you cut a cliche and come up with something that conveys the same idea but with more originality.

I have no doubt the first time "drives the bus" was uttered, it was clever.  It created an image, got the point across and it was original.

But each time someone said it after that it loses meaning.  Which leads me to:

It's Lazy and Dismissive

Basically, it shuts down all arguments, because people aren't willing to think.  "I really think the RAC needs to be rebuilt."  The return argument is rarely something with weight, too often it's "We can't.  Because football drives the bus."

There are many reasons that the RAC can't be rebuilt:  a lack of donors, the Tim Pernetti controversy, more interest in football, football was needed to get to the Big Ten, and basketball donors don't have deep pockets.  Some of those may be true, some may not be, but they all get more to the point than football drives the bus.

There are millions of Rutgers alumni out there and not all of them only care about football.  Some of them might not even-gasp-care about athletics.  These are not worthless people and they don't have worthless opinions.

Instead of just dismissing the topic of other sports, perhaps actually lend some thought to the topic and address the problems and solutions football lends to an athletic department in college.  Talk about how football is a monolith that wants to destroy everything in its path and whether or not that's a good thing for a University.

(Spoiler Alert: I don't think the monolith idea is a good one.)

Football Doesn't Always Drive the Bus

Deep breath, football fans.  It's true.

Need I remind you of the events of Spring 2013? Football couldn't stop that, and football couldn't save that.  Basketball nearly destroyed the athletic department.  And basketball could have saved the athletic department too.

Think about that for a second.  If you really want to track back the roots of the Mike Rice issue, it's football.  And the decision to go big time with football, and basically ignore basketball.

The moment Greg Schiano was hired, basketball went to the back burner, and was nearly forgotten about for years.  Gary Waters was bought out, and Fred Hill was brought in on the cheap, because people thought he could recruit.  And he nearly buried the program.  Tim Pernetti found a way out, but the athletic department was still so focused on football and so much in debt, there were high quality candidates that couldn't be hired for the basketball program because Rutgers wouldn't spend.

They wouldn't promise to rebuild the RAC.  They wouldn't open up the wallet for a proven coach.  Instead, they reached out to a high energy coach who came on the cheap.

And he nearly destroyed the entire department.

For those days in spring, basketball-unfortunately--drove the bus.  If only they'd shared a seat with the football program for the previous decade.

Rutgers would probably still be in the Big Ten.  And they might even have four successful programs ready to roll in September.

So, the next time you want to utter that horrid cliche, take a deep breath, and think for a minute.  Talk about why things are the way they are.  The benefits for all the money that was put into football.

And the drawbacks of ignoring basketball and a ton of other sports over the past 14 years.

And if all else fails, come up with a different cliche.

Maybe football navigates the zeppelin.

Like mystery novels?  Read Dave White's crime novels on your e-Reader. When One Man Dies is available on KindleNook and anywhere else e-books are sold. You can also find the Shamus Award nominated The Evil That Men Do and the best selling Witness to Death in the same places. Cheaper than Starbucks coffee!

Comments, opinions, you can reach Dave here.

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