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The Latest “Controversy” With Rutgers Football Part Of Culture Change In Progress

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NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Rutgers Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Rutgers Mr. Hobbs and Coach Ash. It was announced late yesterday that after just two home games, the student tailgate section “The Alley”, which was run by the athletic department, is shutting down moving forward.

As you can imagine, this did not go over well with the student body and it caused a lot of reactions online. More concerning is the fact that there is now a petition on change.org organized by students, encouraging other students to boycott football home games until “the Alley” is reinstated. As of this writing, over 1,700 students had signed, with a goal of 2,500. Two wrongs do not make right and this is absolutely the wrong way to respond. I said as much in a tweet through our twitter account last night:

Of course, the fallout doesn’t stop there because this is Rutgers. Old friend ESPN had an interesting third article from the top on their main page this morning titled “Rutgers AD sorry for beer incident; tailgate axed”. The Worldwide Leader strongly implied the reason the student tailgate was shut down was because athletic director Pat Hobbs was caught on camera drinking a beer. This is simply a ridiculous notion and sensational journalism at it’s best. Multiple reports indicated the tailgate was getting rowdy this past Saturday and that Hobbs addressed the students in an effort to prevent any unruly activity from escalating any further.

From Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media’s article on the closing of “the Alley”, Hobbs addressed the incident and gave more detail as to why it was closed here:

"My first concern is always for the safety and well-being of our students,'' Hobbs said. "Anyone who was at the (student tailgate) Saturday knows that I was acting to ensure that.''

Hobbs said picking up the beer was "a mistake.''

"I regret that any action on my part can be interpreted as promoting the use of alcohol,'' he said. "That was certainly not my intention.''

While the Rutgers statement gave no indication of whether university officials would revisit an alternative tailgate at a later time, Hobbs said "a number of concerns were raised'' about the tailgate and the Rutgers athletics department "did not feel we could fully address'' the potential issues.

It is a shame, but it’s also disappointing that the Rutgers administration did not support this event. The athletic department should be lauded for organizing a dedicated tailgating section for the students. However, it wasn’t the athletic department who shut down the event, it was the Rutgers administration. It’s possible certain members of the administration were not happy about the environment, which included alcohol, and pushed for it’s closing.

Obviously, logistics were a big part of the reason it was shut down. It’s likely that the athletic department did not have the resources to manage the tailgating section effectively any longer, based on the rapid growth it experienced in such a short period of time. Sargeant stated in his article that the first week against Howard drew less than 1,000 students, while last weekend against New Mexico there were close to 3,000 students at the tailgate event. That is a significant increase and one that the athletic department was seemingly not prepared for. It was fair to expect an even bigger turnout this Saturday for the Big Ten opener against Iowa.

Regardless of all the details, the reality is the closing of “the Alley” is an unfortunate end to a great idea by the athletic department. Hobbs and Ash have been far more concerned and engaging with students and their game day experience than any of their predecessors. They held the Town Hall event last winter and have worked with student groups like the Riot Squad to improve relations between the athletic department and the student body. Hobbs and Ash understand the entire athletic experience needs to be a higher level. At a Big Ten level. Unfortunately, it seems the Rutgers administration is sadly lagging behind.

This type of controversy pales in comparison to last season’s multiple incidents and scandals involving the football program. Personally, I love having an athletic director and football coach who value the fans and students as much as they do. They get it. And I believe a lot of fans and students get it as well. However, regarding the students boycotting football games because the administration took away their tailgate, well, it simply defeats the entire spirit of what Hobbs and Ash are trying to build. Don’t let the actions of a few, ruin the positive energy of the many working so hard to move this program and this athletic department in the right direction. We all need to support our teams, regardless of kickoff times or opponent. Be happy that we have leadership in the athletic department that is determined to make Rutgers successful. The more support we give, the more the administration will have to get behind the efforts of the athletic department. In Hobbs We Trust!

UPDATE: Hobbs Issues Statement And Is Working Towards A Resolution