Rutgers quaterback Matt Allison (1975-77) has taken a lead role with the Football Letterwinners. He was good enough to do a Q & A with On the Banks. Today, the revival of the organization as we head into the Big Ten.
OTB: First, how long has the Football Letterwinners Association been around?
Matt: A group of former players were called by Dick Anderson, the Head Coach of Rutgers in 1985. Dick had been on the job one year and was concerned. It was tradition at Penn State ,where he came from, that former players had the opportunity to be on the sidelines on game day. Dick was getting his arms around the legacy, history and culture of Rutgers and felt the need for former players to be "the team behind the team". I believe we had about eight guys at the very first meeting that was held in Summit, New Jersey.
It took some years for us to come back and participate. Dick Anderson also initiated the Football Hall of Fame and encouraged us to start an annual ceremony . Now we have access to 1,500 former Football Letterwinners. Our Board now consists of 20 guys and growing. Last count our 2014 enrollment was 525, scheduled to hit 600 by January. A record enrollment year. Truly fun to see all these guy/gals back.
OTB: Why is it seemingly just awakening now?
Matt: Honestly, we did not do a good job of romancing and glamorizing what the Letterwinners have to offer here On The Banks Of The Old Raritan. It simply was a miss on our part and not a priority, and we saw a need to focus on this. A group of us felt many players want to come back but lacked the awareness, direction, and encouragement. This particular Board has 3 attributes in common: We Love This University, we Love this football program, and we Love the comaraderie.
Lee Schneider, Football Letterwinners President, has done a wonderful job translating his vision of what former players should experience when they return. New technology, social media, video streams, web sites, email blasts, now allow us to be informed of milestones and special events that we can take part in. It is really fun to see guys who have not been back at the stadium for 10 years or more! Amazing things happen when you set a target, plan and pursue. We have a talented group running the Football Letterwinners Association. We would be a powerful company and we work well as a team.
OTB: How do you and the others in the leadership positions see the group functioning? What will its role be at RU?
Matt: I continue to hear that "it takes a village". In the Letterwinners' case "it takes the team behind the team" to support, grow and move forward in all facets of success in University programs. We all seem to have the common vision of three objectives: 1. Get guys/gals back 2. Build our organization attendance for special events, football games and other sports events. 3. Be in a position to financially assist the Rutgers Football program in a host of ways that need bolstering.
Our tag line back in January 2014, was "Build It And They Will Come". And build it we did. New web site, new events, new faces, new ideas. This coupled with the BIG 10 Teams arriving, the Board knew there would be excitement and participation. As we grow and generate funding for the Football program, we are going to need more help/people in executing our goals. We need new and young faces to assist and help out.
OTB: How is this group tying in with the new letterwinners association at Rutgers? And do you agree that it's about time we had one anyway?
Matt: We were honored when our Football Letterwinners Board was invited by Julie Hermann to attend the 1st Rutgers Varsity R meeting back in September. The Football Letterwinners Association model is a good model and set the precedent for hosting what will be the Varsity R Association. It is amazing to see how quickly the other sports have organized, communicated and set up infrastructures. They are moving quickly and have some amazing ideas of ways to gather their former players to come back and have fun here.
And yes, it is about time. To the University's credit, to see this need and react with all the other projects on their plates, is a testament to Rutgers Athletics commitment to bring us all back. There could not be better timing for this mission.
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We'll continue our conversation with Matt Allison tomorrow, as we look at the Football Letterwinners Association and its relationship with Rutgers Athletics.