PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers will not be a doormat in the Big Ten. In public speaking engagements throughout the spring, that is the message echoed by everyone from athletic director Julie Hermann to football coach Kyle Flood to women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer.
The test begins in football, where the Scarlet Knights kick open conference play Sept. 13 against Penn State.
After a 6-7 season, Flood made significant staff changes including the hire of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen. Multi-year deals and higher paid coaches means a bigger financial investment. It is an investment well worth its cost, Hermann said.
"We're going to invest in human capital," she said. "It's my experience, money doesn't win championships but great coaches and great student athletes puts you in a position to compete for titles. We're going to invest in our human capital -- whether that's an assistant coach, whether that's a head coach, whether that's putting more resources in our student athlete experience."
In the offseason, Rutgers put multiple assistant coaches on two-year deals. Rutgers paid Friedgen $300,000 more per year compared to his processor, and defensive coordinator Joe Rossi received a $100,000 pay increase along with his promotion.
"I put the same question to anyone who's hiring," Hermann said. "Tell me what you need. Tell me where you have to go to get the best talent, so that you can put your program in the best possible position.
"Their job is to go out and recruit stars to help their programs on every level. On the other side of that, we go out to our donor base and say, ‘can you help us?' We actually have a chance to get a hold of great talent, and we need to invest in it."
Rutgers football faces one of the top strength of schedules in the nation in 2014, highlighted by a trip to potential No. 1 Ohio State.
The challenge is a welcome one for Rutgers, which strives to be immediately competitive in the conference.
"It's not all about winning," Hermann said. "Winning is, in my opinion as somebody who has been building championship teams, winning is the outcome of doing a lot right. To do a lot right, the first thing we do is put our students first. Anything that helps our student athletes be better prepared, we know that we've helped them take care of their business. We've set them up for success. That's our primary focus. "
Student athlete support has been a consistent part of Hermann's message since taking over, and will continue to be as Big Ten members.
"We'll spend the summer rehabbing a couple locker rooms that are not up to Big Ten standards," Hermann said. "We're doing as much as we can urgently to put a real support system around them. We're building up ‘R-Care,' which is one of the things I've talked about publicly a lot. [We are] just making certain that every Scarlet Knight knows there is a tremendous amount of support behind them."