Saturday, August 31, 2013

The mystique of Rutgers University Athletics

The mystique of Rutgers University Athletics

By Sakura Honda
The Daily Magi
August 29, 2052

he Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the athletic teams that represent Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (also known as Rutgers University). In sports, Rutgers is chiefly known for being the "Birthplace of College Football," hosting the first ever intercollegiate football game on 6 November 1869 in which Rutgers defeated a team from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) with a score of 6 runs to 4.

Among the first American schools to participate in intercollegiate athletics, Rutgers' main campus in New Brunswick-Piscataway currently fields 27 teams in the American Athletic Conference which participates in Division I competition, as sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the following sports: baseball, basketball, crew, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, and volleyball. The athletic programs compete under the name Scarlet Knights, after the Rutgers University mascot which was chosen in 1955 by the student body.

The Rutgers campuses in Newark and Camden also participate in intercollegiate competition — under the names Scarlet Raiders and Scarlet Raptors, respectively — in NCAA Division III.

Rutgers will be leaving the American Athletic Conference to join the Big Ten Conference in 2014.

Rutgers was among the first American institutions to engage in intercollegiate athletics, and participated in a small circle of schools that included Yale University, Columbia University and long-time rival, Princeton University (then called The College of New Jersey). The four schools met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in Manhattan on 19 October 1873 to establish a set of rules governing their intercollegiate competition, and particularly to codify the new game of football. Though invited, Harvard chose not to attend. In the early years of intercollegiate athletics, the circle of schools that participated in these athletic events were located solely in the American Northeast. However, by the turn of the century, colleges and universities across the United States began to participate. The first intercollegiate athletic event at Rutgers was a baseball game on 2 May 1866 against Princeton in which they suffered a 40-2 loss. Rutgers University is often referred to as The Birthplace of College Football as the first intercollegiate football game was held on College Field between Rutgers and Princeton on 6 November 1869 in New Brunswick, New Jersey on a plot of ground where the present-day College Avenue Gymnasium now stands (although the game was based more on soccer than on rugby, unlike the current version of American football, which takes its rules from a rugby-based framework.). Rutgers won the game, with a score of 6 runs to Princeton's 4. According to Parke H. Davis, the 1869 Rutgers football team shared the national title with Princeton.

For much of its athletic history starting in 1866, Rutgers remained unaffiliated with any formal athletic conference and was classified as "independent". From 1946 to 1951, the university was a member of the Middle Three Conference, along with Lafayette and Lehigh. Rutgers considered petitioning to join the Ivy League at the formation of that conference in 1954. From 1958 to 1961, Rutgers was a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference. From 1976 to 1995, Rutgers was a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference for most sports while being an Eastern Independent in football. Rutgers remained independent until 1991 when it joined the Big East Conference for football. All sports programs at Rutgers subsequently became affiliated with the Big East in 1995.

Since joining the Big East, the Scarlet Knights have won four conference tournament titles: men's soccer (1997), baseball (2000, 2007), and women's basketball (2007). Several other teams have won regular season titles but failed to win the conference's championship tournament. Recently, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights' football team has achieved success on the gridiron after several years of losing seasons. They were invited to the Insight Bowl on 27 December 2005 but lost 45 to 40 against Arizona State. This was Rutgers' first bowl appearance since the 16 December 1978 loss against Arizona State, 34 to 18, at the Garden State Bowl, which was the first bowl game in which Rutgers was a participant. In 2006, the Scarlet Knights were invited to the inaugural Texas Bowl, in Houston, Texas in which they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 37 to 10. On 5 January 2008 Rutgers faced Ball State in the International Bowl held in Toronto, for their third straight bowl game for the first time in the program's history. They won the game 52-30. Following the 2008 regular season, Rutgers was invited to the Bowl, where on 29 December 2008 they defeated the North Carolina State University Wolfpack by a score of 29 to 23 for their third straight bowl win. On 19 December 2009, the Scarlet Knights won their fourth straight bowl game by defeating the University of Central Florida 45-28 in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Rutgers University's seventeenth president, Edward J. Bloustein (1925–1989) envisioned a drive for success at Rutgers that involved participation in "bigger-time" athletics. Several of the nation's colleges became associated with Division I-AA when that designation was established in the late 1970s, including many of Rutgers' historic rivals like Princeton, Columbia, Lehigh and Lafayette College. Bloustein decided that Rutgers ought to pursue developments that would place the university on par with comparable state universities both academically and athletically. This led to Rutgers opting for inclusion among Division I, and later, under president Francis L. Lawrence, to join the Big East Conference in 1991.

William C. Dowling, a University Professor in the Department of English, and other like-minded faculty, students and alumni organized a movement known as "Rutgers 1000" in 1993, working to return Rutgers to its older tradition of participatory athletics by joining such institutions as the University of Chicago and NYU in the NCAA's Div III. Though the group dissolved itself in 2003 under the mistaken impression that President Richard McCormick supported its position, it was revived in 2007 when McCormick and the Board of Governors announced a $102 million expansion of the football stadium. Also in 2007, Professor Dowling came under fire from athletic director Bob Mulcahy, regarding remarks Mulcahy claimed to perceive as being insulting to minority athletes. In 2011, Dowling received the Drake Group's Robert Maynard Hutchins Award for his opposition to the degradation of academic and intellectual values at Rutgers by commercialized Div IA athletcs.

Rutgers efforts to upgrade the quality of its football program have raised criticism of many alumni, faculty and students regarding the size of athletic department's budget, wishing to divert its funds elsewhere. The athletic department's budget is $35.5 million compared to a $1.6 billion budget for the entire university. Most of the athletics budget comes from self-generating revenue (ticket sales, merchandise, broadcast rights), while the rest is taken from mandatory student fees. Though widely dismissed as a logical fallacy the argument that having a very visible football program increases the donations to the athletic department and even the university as a whole is made by some Scarlet R supporters.

Though some critics feared that the focus on Division I-A athletics would lower admissions and academic standards, the Rutgers football team set a record high for Academic Performance Rate (APR) of any Football Bowl Sub-division team with a score of 992 in 2010. A final complaint was that the upgraded football schedule would prevent competing against long standing rivals Princeton, Columbia, Lehigh, and Lafayette. However, supporters of the move claim it would make Rutgers more comparable to large, prestigious state universities such as the University of Michigan and University of California and private institutions such as Stanford University which have been touted for balancing their academic reputation with athletic success.

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