Last week at a ceremony in Atlantic City, the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs honored C. Vivian Stringer with its Women of Achievement Award.
And Rutgers never mentioned it. Nada.
You have a legendary and decorated coach on your staff, yet there isn’t a footnote on her being recognized in New Jersey by a New Jersey organization.
The issue of Stringer’s tenure has been bandied about for a while now. Her contract has yet to be finalized, despite AD Pat Hobbs saying previously that a four-year extension was in the works. Our Aaron Breitman has written several times this past year on Stringer and the women’s team, including her sometimes unusual player-coach interactions as well as her losing several players through transfer shortly after the season ended . And fans on this site have questioned whether it just isn’t time to part ways with the Hall of Fame coach.
We bring this up now - again - because the Athletic Department is highlighting the fact that eight former Scarlet Knights are on the opening day rosters of WNBA teams.
Those eight players put Rutgers tied with Maryland for the second most WNBA players from a single school - nationally. UConn (surprise!) leads with 14 players. Duke, Tennessee, and North Carolina are just behind RU and Maryland with six each. And for the record, RU’s Epiphanny Prince is playing in Europe.
Excluding the 28 rookies, the average years of experience in the league is just under five. Rutgers’ players in the WNBA tend to be older. With the exception of more recent grads Rachel Hollivay, Erica Wheeler, and Kahleah Copper, the other Knights in the pros have seven or more years experience in the WNBA. South Carolina, this year’s NCAA women’s champion, has just three in the league, but they show the recent rise of the Gamecocks: two rookies and a player with one year in.
Maryland, with the same number of players as Rutgers, has won the last three Big Ten tournaments. Half of its eight WNBA players have three or less years in the league.
Then there’s everyone’s “favorite” - as well as a painfully incredible model of consistency - UConn. Yes, there’s Sue Bird, still playing after 14 years in the WNBA. And Diana Taurasi with her 12 years. But there is a Huskie rookie this season as well as three players with only one year, two with two years, a couple others with three, and it goes on. The point here, of course, is that UConn consistently produces WNBA-quality players.
Year...after year...after year....
There are 150 players in the WNBA. Eight Big Ten teams have players in the WNBA, a total of 28 players; Rutgers and Maryland lead it all with a total of 16 players and the Big Ten accounts for 18.7% of the players; UConn is almost 10% by itself.
Rutgers rightfully should be happy with the number of players it has in the WNBA. But it isn’t getting players in like it used to, although it does have two players who are in just their second year in the league. The WNBA’s rookies this year come from rising programs like Baylor, Maryland, Kentucky, Syracuse, and South Carolina (two each) along with others including four Big Ten squads.
If a mark of program success is getting players into the WNBA, Rutgers and Stringer have done well over her tenure. But other schools are now meeting and exceeding her results. And it doesn’t help in recruiting the best when your own Athletic Department seems to overlook the accomplishments you’re still making.