Yesterday was one of the most important days in the history of Rutgers Athletics. The dismissals of athletic director Julie Hermann and head football coach Kyle Flood have given the athletic department a much needed clean slate. With the hiring of new athletic director Patrick Hobbs, Rutgers is off and running with new direction at the top and real hope for the future. President Barchi had laid in the background ever since he announced the three game suspension of Flood back in September. There was concern that Barchi would move on and continue to be minimally involved in the area of athletics within the university, as he has been the majority of his tenure as President. Perceived financial constraints and knowing Barchi is looking to retire in 2017, there wasn't a lot of confidence change was coming. And then yesterday happened.
President Barchi and the Board of Governors demonstrated strong leadership with swift action. This has been planned out for weeks and executed to perfection on a Sunday to remember. I called for Barchi to take action and not let Rutgers fall into a tenuous situation that Illinois has found itself in. It turns out, he was already working on finding a new athletic director and decided Flood had to go. He kept out of public view and orchestrated approvals and sign offs from the Board of Governors, avoiding search committees and long, drawn out processes. Barchi proved he learned from past mistakes and made a bevvy of moves, all in one day.
The biggest surprise from all of this is that Barchi put necessary change above financial concerns. Neither Hermann or Flood were fired with just cause. Barchi said Flood's 1.4 million buyout would be paid with a combination of private and university funds. Hermann will be paid her $450,000 salary plus benefits. Rutgers finally stepped up and made the right decision and not the most cost effective one. It's a major change from Barchi, who has repeatedly talked about the financial constraints in place until Rutgers receives it's full share from the Big Ten in 2021.
The biggest bombshell from yesterday, was the announcement that Hobbs was named athletic director on a permanent basis. Many people incorrectly assumed it had to be on an interim basis, mostly because the idea that Rutgers and Barchi could move so quickly seemed unfathomable. And yet, they did and with the hiring of Hobbs, marked clear change for the future of the athletic department. Hobbs has a strong reputation as an ethical leader, having been the Dean of the Seton Hall Law school for many years. He has significant fundraising experience while leading the law school. He has ties to government and specifically, Governor Chris Christie. It's important that he understands New Jersey politics and how to get things done, something necessary with the proposed athletic facility plans being a priority.
It's fair to have concern that he hasn't been an athletic director at a power 5 school and has never overseen a major football program. However, he was interim athletic director at Seton Hall and understands how to run a department. I am not calling this a home run hire and none of us can foresee the future. But you can't argue with Barchi and the Board of Governors logic. They hired a lawyer who can be expected to run a clean athletic program, make it more efficient and financially sustainable, and politic and fund raise for enough money and support to execute much needed facility upgrades. Hobbs is supremely qualified to do all of this. He is also a Jersey guy!
As for football, Board of Governors chairman Greg Brown will be heavily involved in the next hire. There are a lot of rumors about past Rutgers coaches coming back to Piscataway. Barchi reportedly told players that a new coach would be hired quickly and money would not be an issue. After his actions yesterday, there is no reason to doubt him. Barchi proved he was capable, made athletics a priority and with it, gave Rutgers a fresh start with life in the Big Ten. If Hobbs works out and they hire the right football coach, turning Rutgers into a consistent winner in the Big Ten, Barchi's contributions and legacy will be more than just the medical school merger. He will be remembered as the President that elevated Rutgers to new heights, both academically and athletically, and made Rutgers a better university that flourishes for years to come.