At what point is a team’s growth and improvement just not enough?
Apparently it was now for Rutgers Gymnastics coach Louis Levine as the Athletic Department announced on Tuesday that he would not be renewed when his contract expires at the end of the month.
Levine had been the head coach since 2011, and the team often performed in front of sellout crowds at the Livingston Rec Center. This year, the Knights had three NCAA Regional qualifiers -- Libby Gordon, Belle Huang and Makenzey Shank. But in a highly competitive Big Ten, Rutgers was a consistent also ran. In nine multi-team meets this year, Rutgers only came in first once while coming in last four times. At the Big Ten Championships, RU was ninth out of ten teams this year, the same as they were in 2017 and 2016. In RU’s first Big Ten season, the team finished tenth of ten.
“Rutgers is deeply appreciative of coach Levine’s many years of dedicated service and commitment to the success of our student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “After careful consideration, however, a decision was made to seek new leadership.”
Current assistant Anne Meade has been appointed interim head coach and a national search for the next head coach will begin immediately.
It was last June that Rutgers hired a new rowing coach, Justin Price, following a national search. Price had west coast roots and left Loyola Marymount to come to Rutgers after rowing as an undergrad at UCLA. This will be Hobbs’ fourth Olympic sport head coaching hire (Swimming/diving, tennis are the others).
Most readers here are interested mostly in football and basketball. But the Big Ten competes - and lets emphasize the idea of really competing - in 25 sports that are not called football or basketball. Four Big Ten women’s gymnastics teams are ranked in the top 25, including No. 7 Nebraska, while a fifth squad received votes.
The timing of the firing/hiring comes at an interesting time, with the program looking to move into a new home when the RWJBarnabas Health Performance Center opens next summer. That could be an attractive asset to lure a successful coach to Piscataway. And of additional interest, it comes at a time when gymnastics is generating more donations than most other teams - male or female. Tie that in with good crowds and you see there is support for the program. The right coach could turn this around.
We discussed the idea that Hobbs seems to be looking to upgrade the Olympic sports. It appears to be a very deliberate process, almost one sport per year. But if the ultimate goal is to win, then Hobbs is making his point - and leaving his mark - one sport at a time.