Yesterday we talked about Pat Hobbs' six-month plan to address immediate needs at RU and started to look at how he plans to proceed beyond the 2015-16 school year. Today we look at a few ideas that are probably on his radar. Or they should be.
Steve Politi put together a piece back in December in which he set out ten priorities for Pat Hobbs. It was a pretty straight-forward presentation and it enumerated what a lot of people had been thinking the Rutgers AD should be doing anyway. Several of his points could be unified into one idea: be an athletic director who leads from the front. He called for Hobbs to set a vision, to support his new football coach, to be responsible for and address oversight of coaches, and to simply lead. Can't argue with any of that.
And those things were a big part of the issues with Julie. If she had a vision (and I believe she did), it wasn't clear or shared broadly. Did she support her football coach? There were stories that she and Flood had differences, and clearly the oversight needed there was missing. And the leadership Rutgers needed wasn't forthcoming from her; and I believe in part it was because she was being restricted by Barchi. All of that is gone now, and Pat Hobbs seems to have the power, authority, and focus to do the job properly.
Four of Politi's ten priorities involve one thing: money. As dean of the Seton Hall Law School, he needed to build its endowment; he entered an aggressive fundraising effort and raised some $25 million, getting donations from an amazing 70% of alumni. That is the kind of vision, effort, and aggressiveness Rutgers needs. In fairness to Julie and current Senior Associate Athletic Director/Chief Development Officer Sarah Baumgartner, there was progress in this area. More people were giving and the amount of money increased. But it is very clear that more is needed to bring Rutgers even close to Big Ten standards across the board.
And that brings us to.....
There are few, if any, fans who don't believe that facilities in all sports need upgrading. We've published a ton of stories about just that. In November of 2014, we did a series dreaming about what to build. In March of last year, still waiting for the real Master Plan, we did our own version - the OTB Master Plan - that actually turned out to be pretty close to what was proposed. And what Pat Hobbs may be leaning towards. And a basketball practice facility always is at the top of everyone's wish list. One of Politi's priorities was "Address basketball". A facility would go a long way towards saying we care about the sport.
And he apparently wants to do it right. I can remember when the renovated stadium reopened in 1994; students were leaning over the railing waving at cameras....and the railing gave way. Crappy construction, poor oversight. It was dangerous, albeit at ground level, and embarrassing. I don't see Hobbs allowing that. From his interview with Keith Sargeant:
I want people to be wow'd about where we're going. And for people to be wow'd we have to present that image. I do believe that that's what people are waiting for. Not simply building a facility that houses a couple of teams and maybe gives us some relief.
"That's the vision that I intend to sell.''
It was a vision that Julie Hermann was not able - or possibly not fully allowed - to convey. That was then....this is now. Where she hid from the media or spoke only in very controlled environments, Pat Hobbs feels extremely comfortable in front of the camera and in front of groups.
So then what?
We're going to build. It will happen, though no timeline was presented last June and Pat Hobbs is not putting one forth now. He did indicate that he hopes to be putting shovels in the ground within the year for the practice facility that would boost basketball as well as be a practice home for wrestling and volleyball.
What else is on Hobbs' to do list? Evaluating coaches; he will need to do that against the backdrop of what is holding them back. He knows that facility needs will be listed as the biggest hindrance for coaches. But he will also need to assess whether they are getting the job done aside from the brick and mortar around them.
He'll need to decide which facilities get addressed first. If he wants,we did our priority list already, and we will be gracious enough to let him use our punch list. And soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey are high on my list of things to address sooner than later. And he will need to look at that master plan and decide if the details are good enough as presently listed; I don't think so. And I get the sense that Pat Hobbs will want to put his imprint on the final version of where and when things get built. But while he will be making those decisions, he is looking for coaches and other stakeholders to be a big part of the process. And don't forget your checkbook.
Hobbs needs to build the brand at Rutgers. And not just for football and basketball. Marketing and advertising needs to make going to a Rutgers athletic event worth peoples' while. People like Jeff Brown in marketing do yeoman's work creating promotions; but the tradition of going to such events may take time - more time - to take hold. If you build it, they may come...if it's worth watching.
Pat Hobbs was at Seton Hall when Kevin Willard was hired as the men's basketball coach. He was also there when they cut four sports (indoor and outdoor track for men and women), some of the most successful teams in South Orange. The story lists Joe Quinlan as AD, but the timeline puts Hobbs there. Would this man, who apparently is impressed by and excited about Rutgers, consider restoring or adding sports? That would make a statement about Rutgers as a "big time" school. Would he bring back men's swimming, something ten other Big Ten schools have? Or men's tennis, where everyone except Maryland and RU compete? Would he restore men's crew, the oldest sport at Rutgers and one that has enough alumni support to pay for it? And would he consider adding ice hockey in the only conference that has its own hockey league?
There is a lot to do, and these are exciting times. But, like it or not, this will all take a lot of time, And a lot of money. Pat Hobbs has hired his football coach and now is setting course to organize fundraising and planning for a future that must hold construction of facilities as the highest priority. Will he get it done? Will fans and alumni and corporations support the plans? In turn, I had high hopes for Tim Pernetti and Julie Hermann. And I do for Pat Hobbs, too. But, then, my track record isn't very good in that area. Please let that change.