Last year, stealing a page from Steve Politi's playbook, we did our top ten of power brokers at Rutgers. Steve has done his "Juice List" of New Jersey sports figures since 2009, and he just released this year’s. The 2016 list, as Steve notes, has no high school figures; he's doing a separate list for that.
Now, when we did our list last year, we didn't anticipate Floodgate or the "midnight massacre" when Julie Hermann and Kyle Flood were both dispatched. Who could? So, clearly, this list is going to look a bit different than the 2015 version.
2016 OTB’ Most Influential Top Ten
10a. and 10b. Jeff Towers and Steven Plofker
It’s my list so I can fanagle it anyway I want, which is why I have two sharing this spot. Or four depending on how you look at it. Jeff Towers (2015 No. 5] made last year’s list because of his financial support of Flood’s contract extension. This year, he stepped up, along with his wife Amy, as one of the three, million dollar-plus gifts to kick off the R B1G Build. He and Amy share the spot with real estate developer Steven Plofker and makeup mogul Bobbi Brown as part of the triumvirate of lead donors to the R B1G Build.
9. Scott Goodale
I’m a wrestling guy and it just was so-o-o-o-o hard for me to take him off the list [2015 No. 9]. His team was ranked and he had the best showing ever for Rutgers at the national tournament. He has to climb over some heavy hitters in the B1G to win a conference title, but the potential is there. And the crowds his team are bringing out make the RAC an exciting place to watch a match. Not to mention rasslin’ at the stadium.
8. Ray Lesniak
His tax credit bill provided the $25 million seed money for the multisport facility and that was the catalyst for the R B1G Build campaign. But beyond that, Lesniak [No. 4 in 2015] is a proud alumnus who will promote Rutgers at the drop of a hat. He sends out more tweets showing himself in Rutgers gear than any other politician I’m aware of. He also calls out politicians who don’t support RU (looking at you, CC).
7. Mike O’Neill
Thanks, coach, for making me look good by putting you on last year’s list ([No. 10]. Women’s soccer may not be the most glamorous or highest profile sport at Rutgers, but O’Neill’s team could be very notable if things break right. Last year, the Lady Knights won their NCAA regional and advanced to the Women’s College Cup. Women’s soccer has probably the best shot of any sport right now to win a Big Ten title. For that, O’Neill gets some OTB love.
6. C. Vivian Stringer
Last year I didn’t include CVS on the list. Mea Culpa! The Hall of Fame coach hasn’t had her best teams in recent years, but she is still a notable coach on the national scene. And let’s not forget her outspoken comments about facilities over a year ago. Don’t think that got some people’s attention?
5. Steve Pikiell
Interesting that we have a person on this list - and the upper half, no less - who hasn’t coached a game yet. But the broom that has been sweeping things up at Rutgers left the door open for almost anything good to make this list. Like a few others we’ll talk about below, Pikiell has been doing things right, from Twitter to staff hiring to early signings. He has been a breath of fresh air (any air) for a program that was moribund and craving positive vibes.
4. Sarah Baumgartner
Last year, Sarah was No. 3. And the only reason she fell to No. 4, despite her success and new title/promotion as Deputy Athletic Director, was Chris Ash. Baumgartner is the driving force behind fundraising, and it’s hard to deny her success at Rutgers. She is sharp and personable and, as we offered, primed to become an athletic director soon. Don’t let her go!
3. Chris Ash
From changes in the uniforms to staff using social media to new diets to Kenny Parker and his conditioning program, Ash has already put his stamp on Rutgers football, which (beep, beep goes the bus) means he has put his stamp on Rutgers athletics. And did we mention his early recruiting success? Right now, even if his team is sub-.500 but it looks competitive, he earns his spot.
2. Greg Brown
Most people feel the Chair of the Board of Governors was the motivating force behind Barchi taking the actions he did in removing Julie Hermann and Kyle Flood. He is also a financial player, being the third to give over a million dollars to the R B1G Build. His name is on the recruiting lounge at the stadium, a $2.5 million dollar gift. As a leader on the BoG, he has a say over many things, and as a supporter of athletics, he has clout and can lead Rutgers in new directions.
1. Pat Hobbs
Surprise! Bet you didn’t see this coming! New to the list, mostly because he’s new to Rutgers, Hobbs would have made this list within a couple of days of being hired simply because of his presence and his style. He has been “out there” among the constituents, shaking hands and shaking the trees for money. He has consistently presented RU athletics in a positive light and as a competent and focused operation. Works for me.
Politi’s Juice List vis a vis Rutgers
On Politi’s list of 25 names, there are eight that are directly affiliated with Rutgers, from Hobbs (No. 1) to Carli Lloyd (No. 4) to Eric LeGrand (No. 22). But there are a few more who, while they aren’t directly tied to Rutgers, could have significant impact on the Knights’ athletic fortunes.
Most notable are Josh Harria and David Blitzer [combined No. 5], co-owners of the Devils and 76ers. They’ve already made serious commitments in New Jersey with the Sixers, building a training complex/executive offices in Camden. Yes, Camden. And they have already been in conversations with hockey people at Rutgers. Just sayin’....
Quick review from last year
Here is last year's list with the people and what each was doing when we put them on the list....what a difference a year makes!
10. Mike O'Neill, Head Women's Soccer Coach: Man, am I feeling prescient on this one. He had a great first year and then stepped up to take the team to the Women's College Cup.
9. Scott Goodale, Head Wrestling Coach: Okay, this wasn't that hard. He had already built the program, but a 15th place finish at the NCAA Tournament, ranked 10th nationally? Good things happenin'.
8. Jim Delany, Big Ten Commissioner: TV money. 'Nuff said.
7. Robert Barchi, Rutgers University President: Whatever or whoever got to him, he took the steps to dump Hermann and Flood. And then - thank heavens! - he hired Pat Hobbs.
6. Kyle Flood, Head Football Coach: Whoops!
5. Jeff Towers, athletic supporter: The man who almost became head of recruiting and who guaranteed Flood's contract. And still a player.
4. Ray Lesniak, State Senator and Rutgers alum: His bill was finally passed to provide $25 million in tax credits for new facilities.
3. Sarah Baumgartner, Sr. Associate AD/Chief Development Officer: Can you say rock star or rising star or power behind the throne?
2. Greg Brown, Chairperson of the Board of Governors and Rutgers alum: Money, power, influence. And it hasn't changed. '
1. Julie Hermann, Athletic Director: I...I....uhhh, I got nothin'.