Say what you will about Pat Hobbs, he isn’t afraid to talk in public.
Last night at Quaker Steak & Lube in Edison, Pat Hobbs and Jerry Recco, Rutgers men’s basketball play-by-play man, sat for an hour and talked Rutgers sports.
It was very clear that Hobbs knows his department: the players, what happened in games. He was flowing with comments, citing specifics. And it was also clear that this knowledge was not just because he was on the radio.
Recco asked Hobbs about the recent men’s game in Iowa; Hobbs was there and he recounted in great detail the goings on. "We haven’t been there (that type game situation). The kids tried hard. Its so different [being in the environment and having a lead]. [Iowa coach] McCaffery came up to me and said you guys are different." Hobbs knew things were changing for the better.
If it wasn’t clear by everything he’s said at different times previously about Steve Pikiell and the men’s program, you’d know his feelings by his upbeat and glowing comments on the air. "If you want to see a great brand of basketball, come out."
The rest of the evening touched on an array of topics, from wrestling to baseball to Yankee Stadium. Yes, season tickets for football are open for sale.
A phone call came in from a fan....who wasn’t real happy about the fact that a) we’re playing at Yankee Stadium and b) the game is included in the season ticket package (something we said should be done back in June). Hobbs was pretty blunt in saying that the original plan to play there was not his but he felt it was important to honor our commitments. He decided to try to make it a great fan experience and that led to the wrestling-football doubleheader on Nov. 4. “We need our season ticket holders to pack that stadium. We're Rutgers University and we own New York.” I liked that.
He also said that there was no pressure from the Big Ten to play in New York. He pointed out that Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has applauded the move but there was no pressure to do the games at the Stadium. "We have to balance our responsibility with the Big Ten. Rutgers intends to compete in New York City.”
And on that topic of wrestling, Jerry Recco said he knows nothing about the sport. And apparently Hobbs knew very little about it until last year. “My first match was last year”, he said. “It is one of the greatest entertainments. It’s an amazing sport.” He hopes that the match at Yankee Stadium will draw upwards of 23,000.
A question came from one of the patrons at the restaurant. About hockey and the Big Ten. And Hobbs admitted that he loves hockey. Could it become a “varsity” sport at Rutgers? “We have to look at the mix of sports. Wrestling, hockey, not everyone goes to those sports, but once you go....” As we know from previous posts, the hockey people have made their presentation and Hobbs has a 4-inch binder with details of how to start hockey. And if you’ve got a few tens of millions to spare, we can have hockey real quick.
And as Hobbs pointed out, you can’t do it without an ice facility. Retrofitting the RAC, as was suggested and commented on last night, won’t work, he said. “Were going to make some investments in the RAC after the R B1G BUILD.” But it won’t be to put ice on the floor.
An interesting twist in the conversation was when Recco asked about baseball. “You have a new facility opening (Fred Hill Training Center). Why is college baseball not a popular sport?” For me, that was interesting since the Big Ten has been pouring money into baseball. Hobbs referred to the lack of sports/entertainment competition in other areas where baseball - and softball - are popular. But he also said that Rutgers needs to market better, including softball and baseball. But he admitted that "the facility is a homerun for our baseball and softball teams." The Hill Center dedication ceremony is set for Jan. 31. The event is open to the public and is set to start at 4:30 p.m.
Among the closing points was the R BIG BUILD. It all started one year ago next week. Hobbs reiterated that they are just under $70 million. And he said the whole campaign is a “game changer”. And while he emphasized the new RWJBarnabas Health Performance Center as the centerpiece, he noted that the soccer-lacrosse center is already in the planning. He noted that there have been conversations with a number of alums and there will be some drawings out in a few weeks.
By the way, he also said, “If anyone is ready to write a check for $30 million, we can close the campaign tonight.” No one stepped forward and no one called.
Nonetheless, Hobbs was his usual upbeat self. "We're on a winning streak as a program."