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Grassroots fundraising campaign in support of Greg Schiano’s return to Rutgers football has raised over $300K

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Longtime season ticket holder and donor Jon Newman created the effort to quantify financial impact

Massachusetts v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

After the news broke last weekend that Greg Schiano was not returning as head coach of Rutgers football for a second time, true outrage from a collective group of fans, alumni, donors, and former players was voiced across multiple platforms. Vows of donations and RFund pledges being cancelled, season tickets dropped, with some even claiming to never root for Rutgers ever again. Unified efforts on social media to call local legislators, the Governor of New Jersey, as well as the athletic department and members of the Board of Governors were made. Ryan Hart and Eric LeGrand were two former players leading the charge publicly. Hope seemed lost, but Rutgers fans didn’t give up.

On Wednesday afternoon, news that Schiano and Rutgers was not a completely dead deal after all and talks were set to resume gave fans hope that this could be saved. Hope as Andy Dufresne famously said, is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

With that thought, longtime season ticket holder and donor, as well as co-host of the Scarlet Spotlight podcast, Jon Newman sent this one tweet on Wednesday afternoon and it has created a fundraising frenzy.

Amazingly, as of Saturday morning, the campaign had reached just under $313K with 1400 fans making individual pledges.

This is quite the statement from a fan base often accused of being to small to count from opposing Big Ten schools, as well as one more indifferent than passionate. I always knew that was ridiculous, but now those outside of our community know that as well.

I spoke with Jon about this grassroots effort, who is also an owner of a marketing company in Virginia and has made the six hour drive to home games every fall since 2004. He said of the campaign, “it’s one of those things of let’s put this tweet out and see what happens. I’ve done some online fundraising for the athletic department in the past only my own with folks like Ron Garutti and Jeff Towers. This was different. You hear about all the people who are going to pull their money, and all the people that aren’t going to buy season tickets. I was wondering if Schiano did come back, would the regular fan get on board and how could we quantify that?”

I asked Jon how he determined the amount recommended to make a pledge in support of Schiano’s return. Newman stated, “Obviously, Eric LeGrand has been very vocal during this whole process. I wanted to make the amount of money pledged somewhat significant without breaking everyone’s bank. If it was just like $5.20, everyone would do that. $52 to a lot of people is a lot of money. I wanted to see how many folks would pledge and show their support almost like voting, so that we could quantify it in a big way and show people who are tying to make these decisions, how much money is sitting on the beach so to speak What could happen potentially if they brought him back. The results have been amazing. The vast majority of the fans have pledged the $52, but there are a bunch of people of who have pledged $520, a bunch of people who have pledged in the thousands, and there is one person who has been verified on the Rivals board who is pledging $52,000.”

The amazing thing about this campaign is the success it has had with not even reaching close to the majority of the fan base. Newman explained, “That’s quantifying it in a very finite way, but also in a very small way. Not everyone is on twitter or the message boards. Some have even pledged through Facebook. It’s only a small percentage of the entire fan base. It’s interesing to see the pent up demand for Schiano coming back and what that could mean financially. Not just from the big donors who donate six and seven figures, but for the people who donate two figures and what that could mean to the university.”

It’s an excellent point, as Rutgers has historically been low in the raw number of donors it has had and is well behind its Big Ten peers in that regard. Obviously, donors who contribute in the hundreds of thousands and even millions are essential to any university and athletic department, but the average fan contribution is so important as well. Strength in numbers as they say, is something Rutgers truly needs to develop from a fundraising perspective.

Newman has witnessed the turnaround in Rutgers fans over the past few days, explaining “A lot ot people have said “not only am I going to donate the money, I’ll buy season tickets again.” Or “I haven’t bought season tickets in ten year but I’ll do it again.” I always thought that would be the case, but to actually have fans pledging that is pretty amazing.”

The Bells Must Ring campaign through the RFund is where people are being directed to make their pledges official if and when Schiano is hired by Rutgers. The direct link is here, which takes you to the football donation page. For now, you can pledge by retweeting the original tweet or through one of the message board threads.

“It’s very easy to retweet a tweet, but then by doing that you made a commitment,“ said Newman. “Hopefully once Schiano is hired, we will see how many people fulfill that commitment. I think most people will. That’s more money and probably more new donors to the RFund, which at the end of the day the most important thing is getting more fans on board. We would be back to chopping so to speak and then grow them over time as success is brought to the campaign.”

While a vocal portion of the fan base has expressed why Schiano is the right fit, as well my own plea to the administration that they’ve reached the point of no return in bringing him back, Newman said this campaign has proven why hiring him would be so impactful.

“There is a certain romance the fan base has with Greg Schiano. A lot of people became fans for the first time when he was at Rutgers. A lot of them then left because of everything that has happened since then. This campaign is about everyone getting back on board, plus adding new people who have never experienced Schiano at Rutgers before and want to get on board for the first time.”

Through the adversity of a mishandled coaching search, a fan base has grown stronger. Expressing support in a positive way is so important and pledging to show financial support sends a very strong message to the powers that be. I’ve pledged and I hope you do as well, if you haven’t already. Thanks to Jon Newman for leading the charge and giving Rutgers fans a vehicle to express their desire to see Greg Schiano back as head coach of the football program.

Update: Greg Schiano is the new head coach of Rutgers football.