The Rutgers women’s basketball team will open the 2021-2022 season on Tuesday night vs. St. Peter’s at Jersey Mike’s Arena without head coach C. Vivian Stringer. The Hall of Famer will remain on a leave of absence from the program for the entire season, it was announced in a press release on Monday night.
Rutgers University Head Women’s Basketball Coach C. Vivian Stringer will extend her leave of absence from coaching the Scarlet Knights through the end of the 2021-22 season. Stringer stepped away from the program in April 2021.
Associate Head Coach Timothy Eatman will continue in his role as acting head coach, handling practice, games, and administrative matters. Rutgers women’s basketball opens the season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 against St. Peter’s.
It was previously reported by Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media this fall that Stringer had stepped away in order to “not get sick and to care for her family, including her daughter, Janine, 40, who has needed special care since contracting spinal meningitis at age 2.”
In breaking the news that Stringer would miss the entire season on Monday night prior to the press release coming out, Sargeant reported that because “NCAA rules require teams to only have four people designated as coaches, Stringer is not permitted to have contact with her team during the leave of absence.”
Stringer signed a new five-year, $5.5 million contract with the university on April 10, 2021 and the university’s Board of Governors made it official just a few days later. She is guaranteed to make a salary of $1 million for the 2021-22 season. Sargeant cited a source that said Stringer will be paid her full salary this season with sick time accrued during her 26 years at Rutgers. Stringer also received a $200,000 retention bonus for remaining as the Rutgers coach this past July 1. There is also a clause in her contract that states she is allowed to transition into an administrative role with the same salary at any point of the five year period she is signed for.
Stringer has the fifth most wins in women’s college basketball history with a 1,055-426 record in 50 seasons and was the first coach in college basketball history to lead three different schools to the Final Four in Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers. She is just four wins away from passing Barbara Stevens for fourth place all-time and 44 wins from passing Pat Summit for third place all-time. In her 26 seasons at Rutgers, she owns a record of 535-291.
Whether the wins and losses this season will count on Stringer’s all-time record or if they will be applied to associate head coach Tim Eatman remains to be seen. It’s the University’s decision per an additional report from Sargeant.
Eatman coached the final seven games of the 2018-2019 season after Stringer had stepped away due to tend to her health. Rutgers went 4-3 during that stretch and the results were applied to Stringer’s all-time record. Eatman helped Rutgers finish a program best third in the Big Ten, led them to its first Big Ten Tournament semifinals appearance and guided the team in a first round loss to Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament. He also coached the team for three games during the 2015-2016 season when Stringer was away from the team during the passing of her mother. RU went 1-2 during that stretch and it was applied to Stringer’s record as well.
At Big Ten media day in October 7, Eatman discussed Stringer’s leave and stated, “This is my third time in this role at Rutgers. The first time was when Coach Stringer lost her mother. The second time was when Coach took a leave of absence because of exhaustion. I am so thankful that this time has nothing to do with neither one.”
On his approach in leading the team without coach Stringer, Eatman said at the time, “Our best bet is to continue to move forward, but continue to do the things that Coach will always do. Our staff is really excellent in the fact that we never dilute what Coach wants done and we never pollute what Coach wants done. Whether it’s tomorrow, whether it’s next month, or whether it’s for the first game, Coach has an opportunity to do what she needs to do because she knows she has a staff at home that’s going to take care of business.”
The Scarlet Knights welcomes eight newcomers to this season’s team after making it to the NCAA Tournament last season for the 17th time in Stringer’s tenure at Rutgers. They received votes in the preseason coaches poll that essentially has them ranked 32nd nationally to begin this season. RU will play its first five games at home over the next 10 days before traveling to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam over the Thanksgiving holiday. Tuesday’s season opener vs. St. Peter’s will be streamed live on B1G+.