Has the name Rutgers ever been associated with anything else other than academics, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, with a sub-caliber athletic department? Certainly, as is the case with most large universities, Rutgers has had its [athletic] moments in the spotlight: first ever intercollegiate football game, participant in the 1976 Men's Basketball and 2000 Women's Basketball Final Four, 1990 Men's Soccer Finalists, and others.
To Be Continued…
However, as is not the norm at most other universities with a size comparable to that of Rutgers, these instances have not been constants, but rather, exceptions. Most often, whether in academic forums or outside of them, Rutgers' name has been identified with the likes of Milton Friedman, Selmon Waksman and Wise Young, David Stern and Calista Flockhart, with discoveries of hybrid tomatoes, and with furthering our physical understanding of the world around us, such as, for example, land-atmosphere interactions. What then is the reason behind Rutgers' consistently rich academic tradition (as evidenced by its being 1 of only 3 current Big East schools to belong to the American Association of Universities), befitting of a school with a history dating back to pre-Revolutionary times, and its inconsistent (in recent times downright pitiable) athletic performance(s)?
Part of the answer, I argue, is deeply rooted in a problem the state of New Jersey has historically had: identity. New Jersey lives and breathes between two of the greatest cities in the United States. It lies forever divided, split in two halves: a northern half associated with New York City, its chic lifestyle and up-scale mind-set and a southern half that lives and breathes a generally blue-collar Philadelphia attitude. Embedded within the very gulf that splits the state, lies the most representable form of self, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, forever divided in scope and vision (this division, I expect the reader to be well-informed on so that the very name of Rutgers1000, whatever side one may belong to, evokes compelling feelings for those that desire to see Rutgers succeed). So long as the identity of the state remains unfound, it becomes questionable, whether as a state supported institution, Rutgers may gain the autonomy it needs to move outside the boundaries New Jersey has created for it. The outlook for the creation of an increasingly homogeneous personality for New Jersey is dim; simply observe the kind of state-wide fan support the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils received in their latest run to the championship (how many Stanley Cups do they need to win before the state of New Jersey, in its entirety, can support them as other states support their respective clubs?). With a 2-states-in one New Jersey structure, how is it possible for its state university to realize its course, independent from the very entity that supports it?
Divisions become especially evident during decisive instances. Rutgers is currently caught in such an instant, mired in an apparent mass of quick-sand intending to seize the once divided entity in one direction or the other. The question that must then be posed is how can dear ol' Rutgers grasp onto something before momentum completely consumes it of its own intentions in this increasingly eat or be eaten world of NCAA athletics. There exists one way - the leadership of Rutgers can take part in the kind of role Rutgers has always needed, and has quite often previously lacked, to move beyond where it currently resides.
Stage Left: Enter Richard McCormick and Bob Mulcahy.
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Mike and the Big Dog LLC.
To Be Continued…