It’s been an interesting and long few months for Rutgers fans, but really, you could say that it’s been an interesting and long decade as well. No reason to rehash all the negative things that have happened, but I’ve never shied away from using the label “long suffering” when it comes to the fan base. With this holiday season hitting its stride, I thought I’d take this opportunity to express a few thoughts on Rutgers athletics, the fan base, and the community we’ve built here at On The Banks.
I truly believe the outlook for much of Rutgers athletics in the near and long term future should be extremely positive. The football program has long stripped the joy of being a die hard fan of Rutgers for five years now. However, the return of Greg Schiano gives legitimate hope that better days are certainly ahead. It’s not a question of whether he can restore respectability on the field, but when?
Patience has been harder to have for some fans with hoops, despite being the worst high major program in America not that long ago. However, after a stunning 20 point demolition of longtime rival Seton Hall recently, hope for the first winning season and postseason appearance in 14 years for Rutgers men’s basketball should be as alive as its ever been in head coach Steve Pikiell’s tenure so far.
Rutgers women’s basketball is off to its best start since 2005 and adds former McDonald’s All-American Alexis Morris to the mix after the new year, giving hope that head coach C. Vivian Stringer can lead this team farther into the NCAA Tournament than they’ve gone in a long time.
The wrestling program is undefeated and with several newcomers having strong starts, a tremendous 2020 recruiting class secured, and national champion Nick Suriano one step closer towards his Olympic dreams, it’s hard to argue any Rutgers team offers more long term hope at the moment.
Gymnastics soon begins its second campaign under head coach Umme Salim-Beasley, who led the program forward in year one and the future appears bright under her direction.
In the Spring, Rutgers softball just added a top ten recruit in the country in Taylor Fawcett and looks to build off of its best Big Ten finish ever from a season ago under head coach Kristen Butler. (Editor’s note: I’m aware of the lawsuit filed by former players and even covered it here, but until the independent investigation’s findings are reported I won’t jump to any conclusions.)
Baseball begins its first season under new head coach Steve Owens, who is a proven program builder and seems to have positive things said about him in every corner.
Women’s lacrosse is now led by first year head coach Melissa Lehman, who was a longtime assistant at one of the best programs in the country at Penn and looks to turn Rutgers into the same.
Track & Field is now led by Bob Farrell, who was a longtime assistant that received national recognition and now given the opportunity to lead both men’s and women’s programs, as well as cross country, to more success in the future.
Men’s lacrosse is ranked 16th in the preseason polls and has plenty of talent returning as Brian Brecht looks to end the NCAA Tournament drought this season.
What Justin Price has done with Rutgers rowing team, taking them from irrelevancy to an 11th place finish at last spring’s NCAA Championships in just two years is nothing short of remarkable.
Of course, fall sports such as women’s soccer and field hockey continue to be as consistent as any Rutgers programs, while men’s soccer showed progress under first year head coach Jim McElderry last fall.
And oh by the way, Rutgers has one of the best golfers in the country in Chris Gotterup and the program continues to make strides under head coach Rob Schutte.
I know I left out a few sports and some still have a ways to go. However, the point is Rutgers athletics is pointed squarely in the right direction heading into the 2020’s. Although the full Big Ten share is still many years away, athletic director Pat Hobbs now has assembled more capable coaches leading the department’s programs than I can ever remember. And better facilities too.
Fundraising is so important moving forward, both for the football fieldhouse to become a reality and for the necessary improvements needed with facilities for the Olympic Sports as well. The Rodkin Center is also close to becoming a reality and will follow the APC in bringing Rutgers athletics to even stronger footing in regard to the facilities arms race across college athletics.
I’ll close by saying the fan base showed its true colors this past month plus in coming together to voice such strong support for Greg Schiano to return as head coach of Rutgers football. It was a beautiful thing and after the years of other Big Ten fan bases doubting the loyalty or even number of Rutgers fans, what took place was a unifying moment for a group that deserves far better days ahead in the future.
I hope everyone takes time to appreciate their families and lives during this holiday season. I know I will and I’m very appreciative of all the readers of On The Banks. It’s been an incredible journey so far as managing editor of this site and I’m very proud of the community we’ve built. I’m also thankful for all of the contributors of this site who work so hard to give insightful takes on the current state of Rutgers athletics. Thank you our readers for your support and please remember, even when we disagree and argue, we all want the same thing. Success for Rutgers athletics. I discuss this further on the Scarlet Spotlight podcast here, so check it out.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or just being another day on this planet, remember, there is no place like home for the holidays. And as a Rutgers fan, I hope you feel at home here at On The Banks. Every year I love re-watching this commercial (I’m not plugging the brand, unless they want to pay me) simply because I think it captures the holiday spirit perfectly, regardless of what you celebrate. Enjoy and be safe!