Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs is proving that being successful in all sports truly matters under his leadership. While that might seem like it should always be a given, those of us who have followed this athletic department as a whole for decades know that hasn’t always been the case. Hobbs is proving he cares about winning with every program, as he has now made changes with several Olympic sports in the past year.
He hired Justin Rowe after a national search last summer to take over the rowing program. Last month, Hobbs made a change with gymnastics, letting go of longtime head coach Lou Levine after his program failed to make much impact since joining the Big Ten. And this week, Hobbs cut ties with head softball coach Jay Levine, after the program’s Big Ten win totals decreased every season since joining the conference. Just as the athletic department launched another national search with softball, the one for gymnastics has come to a conclusion and the choice is a former assistant coach that has been successful since her departure in 2015.
Umme Salim-Beasley was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Rutgers from 2012-2015 before becoming Temple’s head coach. She led the Owls for three seasons and rewrote the record book under her leadership. The top ten team scores all-time in program history at Temple took place during the past three seasons with Salim-Beasley at the helm. She was named ECAC Coach of the Year this past season after the Owls posted their two best team scores in school history.
As an assistant at Rutgers, Salim-Beasley was the recruiting coordinator and her focus on the mat was with the uneven bars. She was with the program the last time the program earned an NCAA Regional berth in 2014. That year Rutgers also had its best finish ever in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL), where the Scarlet Knights competed before joining the Big Ten. She was named the EAGL Assistant Coach of the Year for her efforts that season. Four Rutgers gymnasts made all-conference in the uneven bars under her guidance. Alexis Gunzelman became registered the top regional qualifying score (RQS) in the conference on the uneven bars (9.845), which earned her the first NCAA National all-around appearance by a Rutgers gymnast in school history.
Before serving as an assistant at Rutgers, Salim-Beasley was a gymnast at West Virginia and coached there, as well as Penn previously.
From the Rutgers press release announcing her hiring:
“We are delighted to welcome coach Salim-Beasley back to ‘The Banks,’” Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said. ”She is a proven developer of programs and the right person to lead our gymnastics program to Big Ten competitiveness. We couldn’t be happier.”
”I am incredibly excited and honored to be offered the opportunity to return to Rutgers as a head coach,” Salim-Beasley said. ”It’s a great feeling to be familiar with the prestige and history of Rutgers gymnastics. I am looking forward to setting the foundation for a winning program within the Big Ten. I am positive that Rutgers gymnastics is ready for a fresh start and I can’t wait to create excitement behind the program with this amazing group of ladies.”
Hiring Salim-Beasley after her unprecedented success at Temple and her familiarity with this program seems like a home run on paper. Replicating that same success in the Big Ten is a different story and will certainly take time. Also, don’t be surprised if she brings two other familiar names back to the program, as former Rutgers volunteer assistant Michael Rosso served as an assistant coach for her the past two seasons at Temple. In addition, former Rutgers gymnast Anastasia Halbig worked for Salim-Beasley at Temple as a graduate assistant. It’s possible they could be promoted at Temple, but they could end up back in Piscataway as well. This article highlights the strong bond between the three of them and how their familiarity with each other helped them excel at Temple.
No matter who Salim-Beasley adds to her staff, she has a lot of work to do to elevate the Rutgers gymnastics program. However, she’ll have a new facility in 2019 and an athletic director fully supporting her and the program. That is certainly progress. Better days appear ahead for Rutgers gymnastics.
For more coverage on Salim-Beasley and her likely to do list with the program, click here.