When we published a two-part post on Rutgers’ fall Olympic sports (Part 1 and Part 2), we got some interesting comments, particularly in how Rutgers should address the lack of success it has faced in the fall. Two comments brought up the University of Denver as a point of reference.
Denver? Yes, the University of Denver, a private college originally founded as Colorado Seminary in 1864 and known as the University of Denver since 1880. (I can’t help myself with the history lessons.) But back to those comments on DU (no, it’s not UD) athletics.
A wish for Olympic Sports
We all know RU cannot magically transform all Olympic Sports overnight into contenders.
What I wish Pat Hobbs would do is pick a sport – any sport – and give that sport the resources to become a national champion.
If University of Denver (DU) can do it in lacrosse – honestly think about that for a second – did you know DU plays lacrosse? DU spent the money on Bill Tierney in 2009 and look at his results:
Since he arrived, DU has been a perennial NCAA tournament team. DU. In the hotbed of lacrosse known as Colorado.
That’s what Pat needs to do. Get RU a reputation in being a champion at an Olympic Sport. Football and BB are a ways off (my goodness WBB is really not even close now).
Over Memorial Day weekend in 2015, Bill Tierney - former Princeton coach - led the Pioneers to their first NCAA title in men’s lacrosse. It was his seventh title as a head coach, having won six with the Tigers. But after the 2009 season, after not advancing past the semifinals since 2002, Denver lured him west. Six NCAA tournaments later, and Tierney worked his magic again in the Mile High City.
Denver was willing to go big in hiring one of the most successful lacrosse coaches in history. And their bet paid off. But was it just Tierney, or was it a culture/focus at the school that helped Denver to be the first lacrosse champion west of the Eastern time zone?
I think it’s a good idea in theory, but a school like Denver is much smaller when it comes to athletics so they can invest in a sport like that. The same goes for some schools with soccer. Heck, Seton Hall University doesn’t really do football and it makes it much easier to spend their private dollars on basketball.
I think the goal should be to first get the two practice facilities done that we need and to upgrade the Hale Center. Then we can try to focus a bit more on 1-2 olympic sports like soccer and lacrosse.
Well, Seton Hall not only “doesn’t really do football”, it really doesn’t do football at all. And therein lies an issue that many - including those who question aspects of Title IX - see as an issue in developing sports. [As a reference, here are two links on the issue, one pro and one con on Title IX and football. There are many more]
The University of Denver is a D1 program that does not have football. And not having those 85 dedicated scholarships allows Denver - and, yes, Seton Hall - to devote time, money, and other resources to the 16 sports that the Pioneers do sponsor. And it is time, money, and resources that they spend very well.
Among schools without football, DU was the No. 1 program in the Directors’ Cup standings in 2015-16. And among all programs, it ranked 52. Rutgers finished at No. 83.
The Pioneers got that rank based on their ski team’s 23rd NCAA championship along with a trip to the Frozen Four in men’s hockey and an individual floor title won by a women’s gymnast. In addition, their men’s soccer, volleyball, men’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s tennis teams all made the NCAA tournaments. And this year, men’s soccer is in the College Cup along with North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Stanford.
DU has 31 team NCAA championships on its resume. Thirty. One.
Now, granted, 14 are in men’s skiing and another nine in coed skiing. But they also have seven in men’s hockey along with the aforementioned lacrosse title. But regardless, they have NCAA championships....plural. Rutgers has one....in fencing....from 1949.
And it isn’t just naturally regional sports like hockey and skiing - although it was - it also includes a number of successful Olympic sports as noted above. Go back to the Directors’ Cup standings from last year; DU scored points in ten different sports (out of its 16 sports): Men’s Soccer, Women’s Volleyball, Women’s Gymnastics, Men’s Hockey, Skiing, Women’s Swimming, Women’s Golf, Men’s Lacrosse, Women’s and Men’s Tennis.
By comparison, Rutgers scored in seven (out of 24): Women’s Soccer, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Swimming, Men’s Indoor T & F, Wrestling, Women’s T & F, Men’s T & F.
As a private school, DU does not have to release any data on finances. I asked. So we can’t look at how much is spent on their sports. But suffice it to say, whatever they are spending, they’re doing it well.
So, what’s a Big Ten Athletic Director in New Jersey to do? Do we focus on one sport and make it “ours”? Do we brand Rutgers as a “wrestling school” or a “soccer school”? Or do we bite the bullet and do whatever is necessary to be competitive - and that means more than being just .500 - in all sports, with the facilities and coaching they need?
Mr. Hobbs, you’re up.