Today is the official 250th anniversary of the great institution that is Rutgers University. Older than America itself, we wanted to take time to acknowledge this historic birthday! We are obviously a sports website, but there are so many positive things about Rutgers that should be appreciated. In honor of today, many of our contributors took time to express why we love Rutgers and what our school means to us. Enjoy, take pride in today and what it means for our school, and express your love in the comments section. RU rah rah!!
Matthew Pisani: Goodness I do not even know where to begin. I guess I will start with the 2006 football team. They enamored me and I was only 14 at the time. When it came time to do college applications, Rutgers was the first one sent and the first I heard back from. I knew at that moment I was going to be a Scarlet Knight. Getting to the school the first day as a member of the Marching Scarlet Knights, I remember being almost overwhelmed; there were people and parties and fat sandwiches and chaos everywhere I went.
I joined a fraternity my second semester which really got me into doing events around Rutgers. I went to every football game and tailgate. I saw Eric LeGrand become paralyzed. I played halftime at a New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions game. I made the beds for the bed races and then was the captain who rode the bed down College Avenue. I went to basketball games. I covered C. Vivian Stringer’s 900th career victory (I loved the Geno Auriemma and Stringer battles in the 2000s) for class, and I even participated in Dance Marathon.
I found a girlfriend that I was with me my entire tenure at Rutgers my sophomore year and I found my current girlfriend there as an alum, too. I still visit my fraternity and my friends. I still reminisce about the place I still have the tendency to call home despite me growing up and currently residing in Connecticut.
Seeing President Obama talk at the commencement ceremony this past year while watching my girlfriend graduate was the cherry on top of the cake. I have experienced and lived a life at Rutgers that not many can say they lived. I had a great time and learned a whole lot, not just in school, but about myself and life.
I bleed Scarlet and I will love this place until the day I die. Rutgers is my life and I am forever grateful for everything I experienced there, yes, even the RU Screw. This place is amazing and I would not trade my Rutgers experience for any other experience. Happy 250th birthday Rutgers, Keep Chopping for another 250 years.
P.S. sorry about the long rant, I could have kept going but stopped for length reasons. This place really means everything to me and I hope everyone that has or will attend Rutgers to feel the same. I do not see how you cannot feel the same way, this place is amazing in so many ways.
Bob Cancro: I came to Rutgers at a very different time in its existence. It had just celebrated it bicentennial a few years earlier, and for all intent and purposes, it hadn’t changed all that much in almost 200 years. I liked that, that I was attending one of the colonial colleges. I met a lot of people at Rutgers who I would continue to call friends years later. There were some great professors like Richard McCormick, Sr., Sydney Simon, Warren Sussman, Lloyd Gardner; I still remember a conversation between two history profs in an office at Bishop House, as I was there for advice. It was Peter Charanis and Prof. Ratner, I believe, and I didn’t understand a word either of them said. It was like a Monty Python skit of two “old world” professors. But they were great instructors.
I came to Rutgers when Mason Gross was the president and not an arts school. He was brilliant, compassionate, and wise. He was one of the last presidents to still teach a class and he read The Night Before Christmas in the lounge at College Center at Douglass; WRSU would broadcast it.
I spent most of my time at WRSU, the radio station. I was a disc jockey (Top 40 mind living in a “progressive rock” world), a news reporter (I covered the first Earth Day in NYC and got to interview Sen. Birch Bayh at a voter registration rally), a sportscaster (Yes, I broadcast from MSG and did games at the Stadium when women weren’t allowed in the press box), and I played intramural football, basketball, and softball for the WRSU Aardvarks (Aard on!). I was there to cover the University Senate debates on the 1970 invasion of Cambodia and whether Rutgers should shut down in protest. Then I played Lightweight Football for two years, and that made me a Rutgers letter winner, something I cherish.
For all its warts and issues, Rutgers hooked me. Back then, as a student at Rutgers College, I was in a small pond but still part of a fairly big system. And as it grew in size, I still saw it as a great place. And while it is bigger and perhaps a little less personal than it was in 1969, it is one of the great universities in the country and one that New Jersey should be grateful it has.
David Anderson: What makes Rutgers special to me is that it is a microcosm of the New Jersey mosaic, while solidifying it's place in the ranks of the best in higher education. The most densely populated state in the union with all its tiles has a central place within a two hour radius bordered by mountains, the ocean, the most important city in the USA 250 years ago, and a different one today, providing the opportunities for those who strive to be their best. The campus does not feel "magical" or surreal, people tell it like it is with a confidence bordering on arrogance, not pompousness, and it always feels like New Jersey.
New Jersey is where gumption and grit are what allow people to succeed, not destiny, entitlement, luck, or specific spirituality. The sports teams showcase this in the most public forum (this exists in the classrooms and labs, but not as visibly), where RU will win or lose with a combination of that NJ spirit and stability coupled with a pinch of out of state flair. Whether it's a rugged forward from Brooklyn, a goofy redhead from Michigan, the mammoth MP, ex-Ivy son of a steel miller in Pennsylvania, or even a pint sized point guard from Liberia, they all add balance and perspective to what is at its core, Jersey strong.
Dave White: I wrote an article about this a few weeks ago, and you can read it here. But there’s more to it than that. You have to look back on the time I was there 1997-2001. When I was at Rutgers, there wasn’t the love and companionship we have now. At least not as closely. The 2006 football team won more games in one season than I saw my entire time on the banks. And while basketball was good, all right they were okay, what I remember were the floors in the dorms. That’s where the camaraderie was. People I met there I still talk to. I still talk to the people I knew in the Livingston Honors Program.
That’s what I love about Rutgers. The connections I made there and the way those connections keep going forward. You say to someone you’re from Rutgers now, and no one crinkles their nose. It’s a great place to be and puts great people into the world. When I went to that conference last month, I was reminded of that. The people—even when we disagree—that’s why I love Rutgers.
Also, Stuff Yer Face and Destination Dogs.
And Steve Pikiell.
Cara Sanfilippo: Why do I love Rutgers? Because despite my father taking me through a highly questionable area of New Brunswick on the way to my tour, going there was likely one of the smartest decisions I have ever made. Those four years were the best time of my life, and I met amazing people whom I still consider to be some of my best friends. I encountered all types of people during my time there, and received a first class education. Coming from a somewhat sheltered small town, I believe this prepared me for the real world. Rutgers sugarcoats nothing, and does not coddle its students. I believe this to be the most valuable lesson I could have learned there, more than any subject on the course schedule.
I have to say, despite being a contributor at On The Banks, football was not a memorable part of my experience at Rutgers. While Rutgers offered varied social and extracurricular experiences, Rutgers had losing seasons each year I was there. I did attend a few games, but my love of football came after I had graduated. However, the fact that I can still visit Rutgers each Saturday, and revisit those memories, is an experience I would never had if I had attended school in New England as originally planned. I may have arrived at Rutgers kicking and screaming, but after four years there I never wanted to leave.
Aaron Breitman: Rutgers will always be my home, even though I’m not there that much anymore. I’ve been attending games there since I was 5 (I’m now 39) and has been a major part of my life ever since. I applied to many big state schools coming out of high school, but it was inevitable I was always choosing Rutgers.
As you grow older, change is everywhere. My family is no longer in the home I grew up in. When that happens, and you know what I mean if you have experienced this, a part of you is gone forever. There is comfort in returning to a place where times were simpler and where you learned so many life lessons.
As much as my childhood home was that place for me when I was younger, Rutgers has become that for me as I’ve grown older. I sat on the bleachers behind the basket at the RAC in 1989 when Rutgers defeated Penn State to win the Atlantic 10 championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. I rushed the field of Rutgers Stadium in 1991 when Rutgers beat Virginia Tech on a last second touchdown and won 50-49. Those moments are with me forever, but come alive when I’m back at Rutgers.
You always have pride from where you come from. Thankfully, Rutgers continues to prove how special a place it is in so many areas of its operation. It’s a great institution, even during dark moments in recent years. That’s the thing about going home, family is family, through good and bad. That’s what Rutgers means to me.
RutgersNation86: I fell in love with Rutgers the moment I stepped foot on campus. I always wanted to go to a large university, so THE State University of New Jersey was the perfect fit. My very first Rutgers football game my freshmen year we upset Michigan State, the rest was history. Rutgers Football has been my passion ever since. Saturdays in the Scarlet Lot is my home away from home. My wife, although not a Rutgers grad, is a huge fan as we started dating in high school and would spend many weekends on the banks. I was able to get her a guest ticket for the ‘06 Louisville game, she was so excited. I however did not secure myself a ticket despite waiting 3 hours on line. Boy was that an akward phone call telling her I was using her guest ticket instead. She still is not over this, rightfully so.
Rutgers opened so many doors for me, and for that I am forever thankful. I love all things Rutgers and always will. Happy Birthday Rutgers!
T.J. Jurkiewicz: I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t even cognizant that Rutgers existed until I was about 15 years old and the football team beat Michigan State in the 2004 opener and my dad brought me to my first football game against Kent State when we defeated a Josh Cribbs led Golden Flashes squad. After that game I started becoming a regular follower of the football team and when the 2005 opener came around I was so pumped only to be let down when we had a complete meltdown in Illinois but from that point on I was a full fledged fanatic. In 2006 my dad and I ended up getting season tickets and Scarlet lot passes (got the hook up from the late Ralph Voorhees who my dad delivered mail to) and you could say that was a pretty good year to have season tickets. The Louisville game was hands down the best sporting event I’ve ever been to and I still fondly remember storming the field and celebrating with the rest of New Jersey.
I graduated High School in 2007 with Rutgers set as my dream destination based on how fanatical I was about the football program but there was just one issue: My GPA that was barely above a 2.0. Up until I graduated High School, I treated my academics as a complete joke which I have come to regret a bit but I wouldn’t trade it because my journey ended up bringing me to where I am today. As all my friends went off to different colleges I ended up going to Middlesex County College where I decided to make a commitment to myself that I was going to do really well here and eventually I would end up at a better school with the main goal being Rutgers. After a year and a half of really trying, I had my GPA above a 3.0 and applied to Rowan and Rutgers. Rowan was the first to respond telling me that I got in and I pretty much resigned to the fact that I would go there (several of my good friends were there) because I didn’t have what it took to get into Rutgers (one of my teachers in High School actually told me I would never get into Rutgers and I can’t blame her for thinking that at the time). I got a big envelope from Rutgers and opened it to find out I had been accepted and I actually cried tears of joy because up to that point in my life it was by far my biggest accomplishment. I was going to be a Scarlet Knight!!!
I graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and had plans to enter law enforcement until life took me in a different direction and I currently am a full-time professional poker player living in Maryland. At the casino, I’m repping Rutgers with some article of clothing 90% of the time which strikes up some conversations with table mates and I get to talk Rutgers for a bit which is always great.
Sometimes I get asked by my friends “Why are you a RUTGERS fan? Why don’t you just root for Michigan or Alabama or someone who WINS?” The thought of doing these things never even crosses my mind, and here’s why: Rutgers is a huge part of who I am as a person. I was born practically on-campus at St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick. There’s something special about rooting for a team from your home state and supporting the athletic department through good times and bad in the hopes that one day you can get to an elite athletic level in your major sports. I attended the same classes as the players on our athletic teams. We share something in common in that we all chose to attend Rutgers and represent the state of New Jersey in what we do. There’s something special about that bond. I don’t have a connection with Clemson so why should I be a Tigers fan? Because they win a lot more? Screw that. People from New Jersey that are Notre Dame or Penn State fans without ever setting foot in South Bend or Happy Valley baffle me.
I’ve accepted the fact that I may never see Rutgers hoist a National Championship trophy in football or basketball. If someone told me they saw the future and I would die at 80 never seeing Rutgers win a National Championship, it wouldn’t change things. I bleed Scarlet. Always have, always will.
(Sorry about how lengthy this was! Go Knights!)
Jim Hoffman: Mine is very simple, my life would be dramatically different if it were not the time I spent at Rutgers. I came to Rutgers for graduate school, and the tools I received as part of the program put me in my chosen career, and was a leading factor in opening doors that would have remained closed. As a result, everything I am, and almost everything I have done professionally is due to the years spent at Rutgers. In the course of that time, I began to follow the sports, and it made me into a fan who cares deeply about the school, its reputation, and the perception of others about the school. I’m a season ticket fan for football who travels over 200 miles for each and every game, and love every minute of it. Go RU!