Pat Hobbs has an ally.
Well, he probably has a whole bunch. When he received a contract extension yesterday, it was University President Robert Barchi and the Board of Governors who told Hobbs that they were his allies. And they showed their commitment to him and what he is doing.
Our Aaron Breitmann wrote about that earlier today, specifically focusing on Hobbs’ role in - at least at first blush - the miraculous turnaround in men’s basketball. From the hiring of Steve Pikiell to the opening up of the wallet to hire the best staff that could be found, Hobbs has changed the conversation about the games on the hardwood at RU.
Which brings me to Pat’s newest ally: Debasish Dutta. Calm down, I’ll tell you who he is. Patience, people!
Dutta is the new chancellor on the New Brunswick campus. He arrived in July from Purdue. And that’s the key.
In an nj.com story by Adam Clark, Dutta said he has no problem spending money on athletics. I’ll restate that: the chief academic officer on the New Brunswick campus said it’s good to support athletics. "It adds a lot to the student experience. It adds a lot of the faculty pride, alumni pride," he said. "It's an ecosystem. You cannot just take one piece and say you are spending too much."
Where has this man been?
Remember, Dutta comes to Rutgers from Purdue, which hasn’t necessarily spent money on athletics like it was water. In the most recent reporting period (2015-16 academic year), Purdue’s operating expenses were $78.8 million. Rutgers’ were $83.9 million.
So, how does that translate to explaining the significance of Hobbs’ contract extension? It seems that Rutgers - and for me that goes directly to Robert Barchi whom I criticized for not being supportive of athletics early in his tenure - has finally figured out that it’s actually important to be successful in all things, including sports. And to be successful, you need to spend money and support all your programs. As Dutta said, it’s an ecosystem.
According to Keith Sargeant’s story, the new contract has a rollover provision; the longer Hobbs is in the job, the longer the contract extends, but no more than three years out. As the story notes, if Hobbs is still AD at the end of the 2018-19 school year, the contract would be through 2023-24 when Hobbs will turn 64. For those of you who are conspiracy theorists, Barchi became president of Rutgers when he was 65.
Hobbs now has more security. He came here with a deep love of sports, an academic and athletic administration background, and - probably most important - a network of people around New Jersey who could help him get things done. And he has done a lot.
Along with getting the new RWJBarnabas Health Performance Center off the ground and the fundraising that goes with it, Hobbs has been changing the face of the Rutgers coaching staff. His hiring of Chris Ash and Steve Pikiell are the most notable; those types of hires would be at virtually any school. And, for better or for worse, they are the two hires that people will judge Hobbs on as we move forward.
Pikiell has already made a huge difference in the impression people have of men’s basketball. His staff is excellent, his recruits are light years ahead of any recent commits, and he is out and about selling Rutgers basketball 24/7.
Ash, while in the same time frame as Pikiell, hasn’t necessarily made the same impact. Without question, he has recruited better than Kyle Flood, cleaned up the academic and player behavior mess of Flood, and presented RU and himself well enough to woo some significant donors. The on field results, though, haven’t materialized the way many people would like. This year’s Eastern Michigan and Ohio State games jump out and say, “Piscataway, we have a problem.”
So, on the topic of contract extensions....
With a two year record of 3-14 and two recent decommits, you can imagine what opposing coaches are saying about Ash on the recruiting trail. And the likelihood of a dramatic turnaround this year, while possible, isn’t very plausible. Would Ash have a better chance of keeping the class of 2018 intact if he was given a vote of confidence - and I really hate and fear that term - by Hobbs in the form of an extension? What if his original five year, $11 million contract was extended - for just an additional year - along with a statement of support and belief in what he was doing? Hobbs’ current status - for that matter even if he didn’t have the extension - would allow him the luxury of doing that.
Hobbs is committed to Ash. Recall after Ash was hired, Hobbs said it was the best interview he ever had with a candidate. He believes in his coach, even as some fans are calling into question whether he is the long term answer. Re-committing to him may not have the best optics to some, but it may be necessary.
And it would show a commitment that seems to be the new paradigm at Rutgers.