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OTB Round Table: Our Hopes For Rutgers Athletics In 2018

Our staff express what we want to see happen this next year

Eastern Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Happy New Year everyone! To kick off 2018, our staff got together to express our hopes for Rutgers athletics in the coming year. Let’s get started.

Patrick Mella: I joke with my friends that if Rutgers ever got a chess team I'd be covering it and the importance of not bringing out your queen too soon. I'm half joking but not really. The addition of the B1G network and btn2go has allowed Rutgers fans to watch not only the major sports untelevised games but also some of the lesser known programs. Obviously the football and men's basketball teams get the majority of the headlines but much of the schools success comes from the women's teams. The women's basketball is trending upwards and the women's soccer program is coming off one of its best seasons in program history. My hopes for 2018 are continued success to an outstanding women's soccer program, an equally talented mens lacrosse program, the women's basketball get back to the national stage, that Chris Ash gets his OC and the men's basketball shocks a few teams this year.

Jim Hoffman: My greatest hope is that Rutgers gets a national championship in SOMETHING in 2018. We have opportunities in a couple of sports such as women’s soccer (and possibly) women’s basketball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and possibly even wrestling. The last (and only) national championship was back in the 40s in fencing (great trivia question). However, my sincere hope for 2018 is that programs continue to progress, no scandals occur, and Rutgers demonstrates itself to be a positive and active member of the Big Ten.

Dave White: A winning basketball program and an extension for Steve Pikiell. I don’t want any rumors of Pikiell being poached by another squad to plague the month of March. Steve Pikiell has shown so many signs of being special here on the banks of the Raritan, and I want that to continue on through next season. He’s barely gotten started here, so the next steps are finding 6 Big Ten wins and maybe playing deep into the Big Ten Tournament. If that happens, watch Pikiell’s name on some other team’s search rumors. I’m sure Pat Hobbs is already considering inking up a contract—can he get Pikiell to sign it quickly?

Bob Cancro: Program growth. Steady success in more sports. There are several sports that are on sound footing: women’s soccer, men’s lacrosse, both basketball programs (finally!), wrestling. But there are a lot of questions that Pat Hobbs will have to address, such as the horrendous record of volleyball, facilities for baseball, softball, track, and field hockey. And of course money. My hope is that Hobbs, Sarah Baumgartner, and their people are able to raise the money needed to get the facilities in order sooner than later and to support the programs the way they need to be supported to be in rhe Big Ten.

Pete Winter: I have a few hopes for the upcoming year. First, I want to see success against Big Ten competition. Mainly in basketball, but this can really be applied to all sports. It’s time for our Athletics program, as a whole, to start moving up the totem pole a bit. We have a strong foundation with the right people in charge. We also have a few very successful teams. But we have several teams that need to improve to help boost our overall perception. I’d love to see that happen in 2018. Second, I’ll echo Dave’s point regarding an extension for Steve Pikiell. There’s no reason to wait on this. He has done an incredible job so far and he wants to be here. Let’s make it happen. Here’s hoping it’s a very enjoyable 2018 for all Rutgers fans.

David Anderson: Improvements across the board. That seems simple, but there’s nothing more powerful than hope and the best way to keep the flame alive is to see steady growth. For football, the defense could stay as is and it would be fine if the offense can show some signs of life in the passing game. In sports like baseball, RU needs to start showing they are Jersey’s team, use that as a recruiting tool for players, recruiting top in-state coaches (seems like they have), AND building the fan base. It’s inevitable that football coaches from all over the country have financial backing to attempt to secure talent from the garden state. In other sports though, Rutgers should have an easier time convincing local talent to stay home because less vultures from where the grass is perceived to be greener are swarming. Off the field, finishing this clean up of bullying and other non-productive behavior needs to be complete. We can’t go into 2019 with more of those popping up. Bonus: Women’s hoops in the NCAA tournament will provide a boost to the entire athletic department.

Jayson Love: My hopes for Rutgers athletics is a return to the days where we are no longer a punchline in football. Greg Schiano and to an extent Kyle Flood before it went south, had the Scarlet Knights in the conversation of what was at least a “respected” football program. Now, we are back to the status where people of the state of New Jersey complain about “wasting tax dollars” on the team and speciously stating that the Big Ten move was a mistake.

I also hope men’s lacrosse finally is recognized for the program it has become. Snubbed two straight years in favor of sexier names, Rutgers deserved its shot in the NCAA tournament. I hope it gets its shot this year.

Aaron Breitman: As our staff covered in our round table on our favorite moments of 2017, there were a lot of highlights and the athletic department as a whole took a step forward. I’m excited about how much more progress can be made in 2018.

For one, Rutgers has the potential for at least two individual national champions this coming year. Wrestler Nick Suriano, who just won the program’s first ever Midlands title, has a legitimate chance to win it all at 125 pounds. Cornell grad transfer Rudy Winkler, the NCAA’s reigning Hammer Throw Champion, has a real chance to repeat this year. Having two individual national champions would be something.

I also hope the healthiest programs at Rutgers, including women’s soccer, wrestling, and men’s lacrosse, continue to take steps forward in 2018. Winning a Big Ten title in any sport is something I really hope happens this year.

Programs that are improving and heading in the right direction, like football, field hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s lacrosse, and track & field, I hope continue to get even better in the coming year. And for those programs that have struggled, hopefully necessary changes are made in whatever capacity and they begin to take steps forward as well. The stronger the traditionally less successful programs become, the better the entire athletic department will be overall.

After 2017 saw more success in Rutgers athletics than the previous year, let’s hope for another step forward in 2018. The groundwork laid by the leaders in the athletic department, Pat Hobbs and Sarah Baumgartner, as well as the fundraising efforts led by Rich Knupp and the RFund staff, have put Rutgers in a better position heading into this year and hopefully they’ll make even more progress moving forward. I look forward to covering this next year with our team at On The Banks, celebrating the many triumphs and commiserating on any setbacks with all of our readers as well. There will be ups and downs, but hopefully we’ll see more light than not ahead. Here’s to a great 2018 with Rutgers sports!

Let us know your hopes for 2018 in the comment section below.