On Wednesday afternoon, four days after issuing a statement that Rutgers football head coach Chris Ash would remain in charge of the program, athletic director Pat Hobbs emailed a letter to the Rutgers community further explaining the decision and his mission. While it’s fair to be skeptical that Ash is the right coach to lead the program to success after the worst season since 2002 and producing a 7-29 record in three years, Hobbs is making it clear that he feels that sticking with him is the right course to take.
Below is the full letter from Hobbs that was emailed out and here is the link to the letter posted on the Rutgers athletics website.
Dear Rutgers faithful:
When I arrived at Rutgers three years ago our Athletics Department was facing many challenges. Our programs, with notable exceptions, were struggling to be competitive. No significant investment had been made in facilities in decades. Fundraising needed a boost and morale was low.
Our football program, despite some early success in the Big Ten, was heading in the wrong direction. Recruiting was not at the level it needed to be. The practice fields, weight room and locker room were all in need of an upgrade. There was an ongoing NCAA investigation that would later result in sanctions and probation. Despite these challenges, Chris Ash wanted to be the Head Coach of the Scarlet Knights.
We knew this process would require hard work, patience and investment. Success would not happen overnight. We would have to recruit special young men dedicated to the challenge. We are in the Big Ten East, the toughest division of any conference in the country. Every year we go up against the most storied programs in the history of college football. Our goal is to turn our football program into one that is bowl eligible every year, that graduates young men of high character and that is a source of pride to the Rutgers community and our State. That remains our goal.
Over the course of the season, I have heard from alumni, donors and fans who expressed their frustration with the results on game day. Those calls came in loud and clear. Many were quite colorful. This was a disappointing football season for all of us - Coach Ash, myself, our athletes, our students, and you our loyal supporters. We had a goal and failed to achieve it.
Nevertheless, I remain extremely optimistic about the future of Rutgers Athletics, next year and beyond. You should be too.
Just look at what we’ve accomplished together in the past three years. We’ve built strength and conditioning facilities at the Hale Center and the RAC. We opened a new baseball and softball practice facility. The Marco Battaglia Football Practice Complex is the best in the nation. In July, we will open the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center that will house our basketball, wrestling and gymnastics programs. In the spring, we will break ground on the Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center and in August, start our celebration of the 150th anniversary of college football with the grand opening of the Brown Family Football Locker Room. These are long overdue investments that will pay dividends for many years to come.
Our football program has a solid core of young talent returning in 2019. Thirty of our first or second year student-athletes saw action for the first time and we return 18 players who have started. This provides a strong nucleus to build around as Coach Ash and his staff hit the recruiting trail this off season. We will recruit student athletes who love to play football, who excel in the classroom and who want to represent the State University of New Jersey.
Continuity is the key to accomplishing our goals. No one said this would be easy or straight uphill. There are many examples of programs and coaches who in the process of building experienced disappointment in year three. The critics will continue to say it can’t be done. They won’t deter us from our task.
There is something else you should know. Whether it’s football, basketball or any of our other programs, success is also dependent on you. Your continued support is essential. In good times and bad we need you. We’re Scarlet Knights. We don’t quit and we don’t flinch in the face of adversity. That’s Rutgers and that’s Jersey. From the season ticket holder who has been with us for over 30 years, to the young kids who welcome our team each week at the Scarlet Walk, to the alum who just pledged ten dollars to the Big Ten Build, your loyalty is appreciated and respected. It inspires me, Coach Ash and our entire Rutgers Athletics team to work hard every day to bring you the success you deserve.
Let’s go Rutgers nation! Shoulder to shoulder, we have work to do!
Patrick E. Hobbs
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
Here are my quick takes and rapid reaction to the letter:
- I’m actually surprised he didn’t mention how the football team played down the stretch of the season. Not that losing 11 games in a row is ever acceptable, but I figured Hobbs would harp on the reduced margin of defeat in the last five games of the season as a major talking point in retaining Ash. It’s actually refreshing that he didn’t and I find it a positive that Hobbs simply stated how disappointing the season was to him and the program.
- His comment regarding responses he has received from fans and citing “many were quite colorful” was funny and made the point that angry messages from some fans has been received.
- After saying how disappointed he and the football program were in the results in 2018, he then followed with saying how excited he is about the future of the entire athletic department. It was an interesting shift to then go on to cite all of the facility improvements that have occurred or are in progress. It makes sense to a degree, as there are lots of positives to mention, but it seemed more promotional regarding his tenure as athletic director and it didn’t directly address football specifically.
- The plea for continued support at the end of the letter seems genuine and he is 100% correct that fan support is needed now more than ever. However, it’s doubtful this letter will change the minds of the many skeptics that do exist regarding Ash not being the right coach to resurrect the program. The more out in front and transparent Hobbs is this offseason in speaking about football will serve him better in the long run though and this was a solid first step. There needs to be more though.
- Nowhere in the letter does Hobbs specifically cite that he believes in Ash to turn the program around, other than to say “continuity is the key to accomplishing our goals”.
What do you think of Hobbs’ response? Did this make you feel better about his decision to keep Chris Ash? Sound off in the comment section.