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About those “Olympic” sports at Rutgers....

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The opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics are tonight. What better time to talk about, well, you know, Rutgers Olympic sports.

Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

I try to stay calm. I really do try.

I write something about an Olympic sport and I often get responses like this:

Women's Tennis at RU and Title IX Calculus

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here....But with football and men’s basketball sucking all the oxygen out of the room, and for good reason, I would suggest we not probe too deeply into the next tennis coaching hire for signs of renewed vigor across the franchise. RU has women’s tennis for one reason and on reason only: it needs the sport to satisfy the mysteries of Title IX compliance. In short, while RU offers women’s tennis as a varsity sport, "offering" a sport and "resourcing" a sport are too very different things. And at RU, "offering" is a core competency.

....But the basic economics driving RU athletics have not changed. It looks as it does because you can only "offer" a sport when you lack the resources to run a sport. ....Until football and men’s basketball deliver that elusive bounty coupled with gaining its full share of the B1G financial spoils, women’s tennis, like many other sports at RU, will continue to exist in name only. ....It looks as it does because the goal is simply to offer the sport. And offering is exactly what RU does best with the resources that it has....

by sr85 on Aug 4, 2016 | 5:39 AM

I understand. And this is not completely wrong, but....

I take a breath. I close my eyes, count to ten. Think of an old Jackie Gleason/Ralph Cramden schtick where Ralph is trying to control his temper, saying, “Pins and needles, needles and pins, a happy man always grins.”

Then, pretty much like Ralph, I lose it.

I understand that football and basketball - the two (three?) marquee sports - need to be successful to move the overall sports and perception needle. And we are financially disadvantaged because of a host of actions, decisions, and ineptitude over the years.

I. Get. It.

But you can’t just say the “other sports” are okay as is because we “offer” them to satisfy Title IX. In other words, if I’m a Rutgers athlete in a sport other than football or basketball, my work, my effort, really doesn’t matter? If we win, well, that’s nice. But if we don’t, that’s okay, too. Here’s your varsity letter and participation trophy.

And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

How condescending and petty. How hurtful. How dare anyone say, let alone, think that!

“Pins and needles, needles and pins, a happy man always grins.” Okay, I’m back.

Please don’t think the Olympic sports are for show. Because that would seem to run counter to what the Big Ten - our conference - believes. How about these excerpts from the recent press release from the Big Ten:

The 2016 Olympic Games open this week and the Big Ten will boast more than 150 participants and coaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5-21. All 14 Big Ten schools will be represented at the Games with Michigan leading the way with 30 representatives (24 competitors and six coaches). The Wolverines are followed by Penn State (24), Indiana (17), Wisconsin (16), Ohio State (14) and Nebraska (11). Of the 154 overall representatives, 126 are competitors including 27 who will be students on Big Ten campuses this fall.

The Big Ten contingent of current and former students, coaches and alumni includes 66 members of the United States Olympic Team along with representation of 34 additional countries.

The Big Ten representatives will compete in 15 different sports with 35 each in both swimming & diving and track & field. Other sports with multiple Big Ten competitors are volleyball (14), rowing (10), fencing (7), soccer (6), wrestling (5), basketball (3), cycling (3), gymnastics (3), rugby (3), field hockey (2), golf (2)..

Olympic sports....get it?

And other schools - even those that are “football factories” - promote their Olympic sports.

There are 212 athletes and coaches from SEC schools in Rio....and none of them are playing football. For the record, there are three men and three women playing basketball.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying we’re going to be competitive with the best Big Ten teams in every sport, every year. But two years of zero B1G wins in tennis? Or 2-15 in conference field hockey over the last two seasons? Not acceptable. And change - I’ll take incremental change - is needed. As was written by my new best friend in the world, RUinChiTown, after I wrote the tennis post:

If we’re serious about stepping-up in the B1G in general (all sports) it appears that Hobbs has to at least: hire a full-time coach; buy some lights and benches for the existing court (and reconditioning) ; than make sure the women have an on-campus indoor facility for practice in lousy weather and in the winter. We don’t need to be first in facilities and budget, but middle of the pack in the B1G would be a major improvement.

My guess is Sarah B. just got the assignment to find an alumni-tennis player with a spare million to give.

by RUinChiTown on Aug 3, 2016 | 3:04 PM [emphasis added]

Sounds like a plan to me.

Rutgers at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Anastasia Bogdanovski, Swimming (200m freestyle), Macedonia (current student)

Carli Lloyd, Soccer, USA

Thomas Terhaar, Rowing (women’s eight coach, women’s pair coach), USA

For New Jersey athletes in Rio, click here.