Since 2009, Steve Politi has put out his "juice list". As his story last August stated:
Juice is power. Juice is influence. Juice is also subjective....Politi ranks the most influential people in New Jersey sports — a list that includes team owners, coaches, politicians and athletes from all levels of competition.
So, with a tip o' the hat to him, we throw out a few ideas about who might have the juice at Rutgers.
Recently, CBS Sports put together a list of the most influential people in college sports in the country. As you might expect, Urban Meyer and Mike Krzyzewski were up there. But not one coach made the top ten, as ADs - and others - tended to lead the way. Among the top ten ADs were two from the Big Ten, Northwestern's Jim Phillips and Ohio State's Gene Smith. Smith runs the monster that is the Buckeyes and Phillips is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Council, a new legislative group that has given more power to athletic directors, and is the only Division I AD on the powerful NCAA Board of Governors. That's juice!
But ADs were not the exclusive leaders, as people who are not even on college campuses made the list. The top three are conference commissioners, led by number one Jim Delany of the Big Ten.
So what about Rutgers? Who are the most influential people in determining the direction of the Scarlet Knights?
OTB's Most Influential Top Ten
10. Mike O'Neill, Head Women's Soccer Coach Right now, he has a golden goose on his hands with Carli Lloyd. He had a pretty good recruiting class coming in before the World Cup. If he can make a big enough splash this fall and surpass his fourth place Big Ten finish of a year ago, he and women's soccer have the ability to raise the profile of the sport at Rutgers and change a lot of thinking "On the Banks".
9. Scott Goodale, Head Wrestling Coach New Jersey is a hotbed of wrestling. Last year, the team was very competitive and drew record crowds to the RAC for wrestling. Like O'Neill, Goodale is in a position to make some serious noise in the conference. In truth, both soccer and wrestling are among the likeliest to bring home the first Big Ten championship to Rutgers.
8. Jim Delany, Big Ten Commissioner As if I had to introduce him. St. James of Rosedale, as I refer to him, brought us out of the abyss. The New Jersey native is about to bring the conference a king's ransom in the next television deal, and that will benefit everyone (well, Rutgers is the only one we care about) by increasing the payout from the conference. The "most influential person" in college athletics is a force, and it will more than trickle down to Piscataway.
7. Robert Barchi, Rutgers University President I've had my issues with Barchi in terms of athletics. I'm not completely sold on him in that area yet. But he has gotten a strategic plan adopted by the University, a plan that includes athletics. He has been circumspect in his public comments about athletics, something that bothered me, but it has, for now, proven to be a steady course that has gotten us this far. He gave, apparently, unwavering support to Julie Hermann during her early months when the wheels were coming off. And as of right now, things seem calm, on course, and moving....forward.
6. Kyle Flood, Head Football Coach Nick Saban was No. 16 and Urban Meyer was tied for No. 11 on that most influential list for the nation. So, KF wasn't gonna be there. But he is the most visible athletics face at Rutgers, and his support of other teams is a great asset to everyone. His tweets about Carli Lloyd were a statement to his belief in the whole program. His support of other teams went as far as making sure the softball team got the dugout "wraps" from Fathead after we won the Quick Lane Bowl.
ICYMI:The .@RUSoftball dugouts have a new look. Thank you to @RFootball for our new additions! http://t.co/mcReLICL29 pic.twitter.com/owxvnbPLPr— Rutgers Softball (@RUSoftball) April 23, 2015
5. Jeff Towers, athletic supporter You may remember Towers as the "almost" recruiting coordinator, a bold and daring idea that didn't quite make it to fruition. But he is one of the major donors who will be asked to pony up when it comes time to put shovel in ground. Towers was the individual who pledged a $1 million gift to support the Scarlet Knights football program last year, along with guaranteeing Flood's additional compensation.
4. Ray Lesniak, State Senator and Rutgers alum Everyone's (at Rutgers, at least) favorite state senator. It was Lesniak's "calling out" of Barchi back in February that seemingly got something started. Yes, the strategic plan was in progress, but Lesniak's pushing got Barchi to at least publicly talk about the issue of facilities. Lesniak's bill, which has passed the Senate and is now in Assembly committee, would provide some $25 million to get the practice facility/parking garage started.
3. Sarah Baumgartner, Sr. Associate AD/Chief Development Officer She's the money guy (sorry, person just didn't sound right). She is in charge of raising money for athletics. She was a key player at Missouri when it raised $84 million towards their "Going for Gold" campaign. During her tenure, Missouri saw an annual fund that increased 60 percent in donor membership and 40 percent in annual fund gift growth from 2008 to 2013. This is a key player.
2. Greg Brown, Chairperson of the Board of Governors and Rutgers alum The Brown Recruiting Lounge at the Stadium? That's him. He's also the CEO of Motorola Solutions, and has long been a supporter - both financially and vocally - of RU athletics. In his position at the head of the table, he can focus Rutgers in whatever direction he wants. In regard to Lesniak's push for action on facilities, Brown didn't shy away from saying the senator was right. "We weren't interested in joining the Big Ten; we were interested in competing and winning in the Big Ten.''
1. Julie Hermann, Athletic Director Like her, hate her, or still undecided, Julie is leading the charge. By all outward appearances, Barchi has done his part and is now leaving the heavy lifting to Hermann. She now has a strategic plan to use as a guide. She has to raise the money, build consensus, and, most importantly, build facilities. Like Barchi, she has not come out with a lot of comments about what we might/could do. In fact, she has been doing more behind the scenes to build a department infrastructure and culture so that when the time came - and it sure looks like it's here now - she would be ready to hit the bricks running. I have had faith in her from the start, despite the cringe-worthy gaffes. She is more qualified than any AD we have ever had, having been in the athletic administration end for years. And at a highly successful school. She has the creds, now she has to make it happen.
Who else did we consider
There were the usual suspects: Eddie Jordan, C. Vivian Stringer, Keith Sargeant of the Ledger, and even Steve Politi. He certainly raises interest when he writes. There's the governor, but he had pretty much backed off on any support for the University and now he's more interested in other locations than Piscataway. I considered Steve Sweeney, the state Senate President and South Jersey power broker. You might remember him as the guy who tried to rip the Camden campus away and give it to Rowan. Sorry, Steve. You didn't get that nor did you make our list. And even Woody Johnson came to mind; the owner of the Jets and the head of a private investment firm. You know, a guy born in New Brunswick and with lots of spare change.
Then there were people outside the college sports world, such as all the high school basketball and football coaches in the state. How about the football coaches at Don Bosco, St. Joe's Hammonton, or St. Peter's? Or the hoops coaches at St. Anthony, Hudson Catholic, or Paterson Eastside? All of them have, in a manner of speaking, influence on what happens at Rutgers but none had that much influence to make a top ten list.
Side note: Last year, No. 25 on Politi's juice list was Chris Partridge, the former Paramus Catholic head coach and now the recruiting coordinator for Michigan. Politi wrote of him: "has become the dominant team in New Jersey high school football, winning back-to-back Non-Public, Group 4 titles, and that puts the 33-year-old coach on top of the mountain. Will he stay there? He'll have to prove he can keep winning without star Jabrill Peppers." Well, he doesn't have to prove he can coach. He now works for Harbaugh, although, as you may recall, he almost worked in Piscataway.
So, what do you think? We close? Way off? We're waiting for your comments.