When I first started thinking about this article, I was sitting in a workshop as Leslie Morrow was introducing the presenters at the Rutgers Reading and Writing Conference of 2016.
The event was well-attended, 1100 teachers ready to listen and learn. But to start the conference, there was a ton of Rutgers pride. Alums, including myself, were asked to stand and then Morrow implored us to send our children to Rutgers—”the best public institution in the state!” And then the Glee Club sang to us about the revolution, football and then led us in the Rutgers Hoorah! chant. Come on, you know it.
And there was a glimmer of something I feel like I’ve been forgetting—at least since Rutgers joined the Big Ten.
There have been so many basketball and football stories in the news from Mike Rice to Julie Hermann to Kyle Flood. And then the better news in Steve Pikiell, Chris Ash, and Pat Hobbs’ goal to improve the facilities and quality of the athletic teams Rutgers fans can be proud of.
But sometimes, writing for this site, following Rutgers sports on Twitter and engaging with other fans, I forgot a simple fact.
Rutgers is more than a sports team.
Rutgers is more than 93-31, 78-0 or even that moment where you rush the field or court.
This is a university. The 8th oldest university in the country!
It is full of education, great ideas, and science breakthroughs that can change the world. This is a place where writers and teachers can come together to make the world a better place. Where 18 year olds grow to 22 years olds and become adults with the power to change the future.
Nobel Prize winners worked here. Great writers wrote novels after leaving here. Cures for infectious diseases were invented and discovered here. Rutgers is a great place full of positives. And that is all so much more important than a ball or balance beam.
People are more important than the game. The players are people.
We need to remember that. Because sports can become huge, but—as we like to remind those critical of our school—it is only a small percentage of the university.
That said, there aren’t many moments like this morning, where I learned and felt like I was 20 again sitting in a classroom. The moments that resonate are the moments out of the classroom. The time you rushed the field or rolled down a hill walking back to Livingston Campus.
But, on this bye week, just before basketball starts up, let’s remember what Rutgers is not. It is not a pro team that improves or declines at the whim of an owner. It takes years to build up and grow into something to be proud of. And that power can grow or wane at the drop of a hat. Sports is an advertising tool and a way for alumni to still feel connected. That is a great thing.
But that connection doesn’t always mean winning. It could mean that great tailgate or time you met for dinner at Stuff Yer Face.
And when things are down, remember what it was like to sit in that classroom. Or the time the Glee Club made you grin. Or when you went to a party.
Remember the kids whom you like to play games are trying to build those memories, make those ideas grow and change the world.
Grasp what Leslie Morrow said this morning—Rutgers is the best public institution in the state.
Not just teams on a field.