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Noon Kickoffs Or Not, Rutgers Football Needs R Support

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Fresno State Bulldogs v Rutgers Scarlet Knights Photo by Jarrett Baker/Getty Images

By now you have probably heard that the Big Ten opener for Rutgers against Iowa has been announced as another noon kickoff. That’s the fourth home game of the season slated to begin at noon, with the Indiana game yet to be determined.

I don’t know, call me a sucker for school pride, but I’m willing to sacrifice an earlier start time for the fact that Rutgers will be on national television, either on ABC or ESPN2. It is also possible the ABC broadcast will be switched to regional action only, but even still. Rutgers is playing Iowa, the defending Big Ten West Division Champs. The current #13 team in the country. There is no reason to bemoan a noon start time. It’s time for a reality check and for Rutgers fans to truly appreciate our current situation. Things could be far, far worse.

Noon kickoffs are as much a part of college football tradition as marching bands, cheerleaders, 50/50 ticket raffles and Lee Corso making his pick of the week by wearing a mascot head. Rutgers has ALWAYS had it’s fair share of noon games and guess what, it always will. Our Bob Cancro covered the bickering on this issue back in June. This isn’t just a Big Ten issue, as you can view these tweets from fans complaining as far back as 2012, Rutgers last season in the Big East.

Of course, Gibby was right, Rutgers is certainly susceptible to being slated for more noon games than other conference foes now that they are a member of the Big Ten. Whether you think it’s fair or not, it’s simply the reality of being unpopular and having less historical success than many of our conference brethren. Besides, Rutgers was 4-8 last season and universally picked to finish in last place this season. Not exactly an advertisers dream. The simple fact is Rutgers has little appeal in the heart of Big Ten country, at least for now.

In regards to the Iowa game on September 24th, we really shouldn’t be surprised there either, considering other Big Ten matchups that week include Penn State at #4 Michigan and #9 Wisconsin at #12 Michigan State.

It does appear Rutgers has been slated for more noon games overall than usual, as our Griffin Whitmer broke down the first 8 games of the season.

The rest of the schedule includes times to be determined for Indiana at home and both Michigan State and Maryland on the road. The Penn State game is slated for 8pm for senior night as part of the Battle of the Birthplace Wrestling/Football doubleheader. At a minimum, Rutgers will have six games kicking off at noon or earlier (Washington was 2pm EDT), with the likelihood of at least one more. This is an increase from last season, but remember Rutgers was coming off a 8-5 season that included a bowl victory. These things, whether we like it or not, are a factor in the scheduling.

2015 noon games: Norfolk State (H); Kansas (H); Wisconsin (A); Army (A); Maryland (H)

2015 3:30 games: Washington State (H); Indiana (A); Michigan (A); Nebraska (H)

2015 night games: Penn State (A); Michigan State (H); Ohio State (H)

Before everyone gets their pitchforks and starts blaming Rutgers for the abundance of noon kickoffs this season, please know this is completely out of their control. Just as the Washington game was made very difficult for most New Jersey residents to watch, all the decisions are made by the television networks and the conference home office. And, hey, it’s not just Rutgers that deals with an abundance of noon kickoffs.

Iowa, the Big Ten West champion, is saddled with noon games against the weaker opponents on their schedule. The reality is this, unless you are Michigan or Ohio State, the odds are a good amount of your scheduled games will kickoff at noon.

Listen, I understand the frustration of these early starts and how it cuts into tailgating time. It annoys me too. However, we are all crazy to let that frustration supersede the fact that Rutgers is now a Big Ten school. Instead of noon kickoffs against UConn and Temple, we are playing Iowa. Think about that. I have little sympathy for the new age Rutgers football fan who feels we are entitled to anything. My first Rutgers game as a kid was against Colgate. All of the biggest home games in the eighties did not take place at the old Rutgers Stadium, but instead at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. It bordered a road game as most of those games were against traditional powers with larger fan bases. Penn State would only play us there and refused to play on campus. Heck, I even went to a Rutgers - Vanderbilt game at Giants Stadium, so it was very frustrating to lose multiple home games each season because programs wouldn’t play at Rutgers.

Another reason to be thankful is despite last season’s 4-8 record and a difficult road ahead this season, the past decade has been pretty darn good. And the future is bright. I went to Rutgers from 1996-2000 and the four falls I was there the team went 8-36. That included the 0-11 season of 1997 and my senior year, when Rutgers went 1-10, only winning the last home game against Syracuse. I celebrated that win like we won the damn Rose Bowl. And I was far from alone. Hope was sparse.

For those Rutgers sons older than me, nudge Bob nudge, the losing and irrelevance of Rutgers football that they experienced was far worse than that. So forgive me if fans complaining about noon kickoffs and why Chris Ash hasn’t turned the program into a winner yet wear on my patience. To truly appreciate the present day, you must understand and know of the past. We should all be enjoying this journey and have confidence we are finally be led by the right people.

Is Rutgers playing a lot of noon games annoying and frustrating? Yes, I will give you that. However, look at the big picture and realize we are A) Big Ten; B) finally have an administration acting like it; C) have a legitimate Big Ten coaching staff. We need to be patient and let the ball that is in motion go to work. And even still, it’s not all high noon kickoffs in Piscataway, as Michigan and Penn State are night games. We even are attempting a “Stripeout” against the Wolverines. On campus no less, in a 52,000 stadium on national television. That fact was simply not believable in the not so distant past.

The bottom line is Rutgers Football needs all of our support this season and beyond. We need to fill the stadium this Saturday against New Mexico and again the following week against the Hawkeyes. If you can’t see all the positives and how they outweigh the negatives, well then you just don’t get it.

No J.P., we should all be rejoicing that this is our reality. We R Big Ten. Dealing with noon kickoffs is more than a fair trade in my book. Besides, what’s so bad about having permission to drink alcohol and eat bad food earlier in the day than is otherwise normally socially acceptable? As a fan base, we need to embrace any kickoff time and make our pregame environment Big Ten worthy. Whether it’s kegs and eggs, a good bloody mary, or a cold water, Rutgers fans should be happy of where we are at in 2016 and what the future holds. I’ll happily toast to that, regardless of what time of day it is!