It had been three years since I went out to Phoenix to see Rutgers play in the Insight Bowl. Now I have just returned from Birmingham, AL after Rutgers' fourth straight bowl appearance and third consecutive bowl victory.
Now the scenery may have been different and the weather was not as nice as the Arizona heat but Rutgers provided enough joy this past Monday to forgive the setting.
Who would ever think we would be talking about a bowl victory after the 1-5 start? It’s a tale of two halves and the second is surely the way a Hollywood script would end. This bowl trip was certainly quite an experience, not just for the players, but for the fans as well.
For the 7,000 or so Scarlet Knight fans who made the trip you are certainly true fans. For those, like my friends and me, who drove all the way to Alabama, no one can ever question where your loyalty lies.
To go down and travel to a third tier bowl, in a crummy city, it took a lot of faith to even make the trip. With how bad the economy is and the state of New Jersey not backing the football program, those 7,000 fans made a difference.
Maybe they weren’t as loud as the Wolfpack faithful but you could tell by looking at the face of former athletic director Bob Mulcahy in his last days fulfilling his job he was so grateful to the fans who kept chanting his name.
Maybe it’s time for New Jersey to open its eyes and to welcome big time college football to its area. My father was sitting at a bar after the game when a few NC State fans sat next to him. After a few minutes of game talk one of the fans politely asked why the state of New Jersey does not support its team.
My dad tried explaining to him the politics involved with what has gone on but simply put the NC State fan did not find the answer acceptable. He could not fathom how a state could not be proud of a program that has come from nothing to something.
And he’s right! It’s time for people in the great Garden State to stop acting like spoiled professional fans and start supporting its State University. It appears that only a National Championship would change things, even then who knows if they would even applaud Rutgers.
Whether it’s the fact the state government barely funds Rutgers, or a growing football program which can bring in revenue is ridiculed everyday by shaky journalists, brings the question: Why is New Jersey so different?
Why is it bad New Jersey finally has a college team to be proud of? Is it bad to finally cheer on players who are not being paid millions of dollars to play a sport they love? People need to wake up and see the joy spread to the Rutgers die-hard faithful.
College athletics are majestic. The passion and beauty of college sports are unlike anything out there today. And if New Jersey would just embrace the traditions of big time college football such a bigger stadiums, larger coaching contracts, and more money being given to the program, then maybe people would finally see college football isn’t such a bad thing. It is actually quite fun.
All I can say is I wouldn’t trade my trip for the world and if you ask the other Rutgers fans who made the trip they would most likely say the same thing. Whether people like it or not Rutgers football is on the way up. What Greg Schiano and Bob Mulcahy have done so far cannot be erased.
What will it take for New Jersey to accept Rutgers football? There probably is not a definite answer out there. The suggestion would be for those who support the program to keep on doing so and to show others that the college football way of life isn’t so bad.
Academic achievement is outstanding and Rutgers is one of the best in the area. Athletic achievement is uncharacteristic for the Scarlet Knights. It may be time for the people of New Jersey to help Rutgers ease into this realm of success with some support instead of constant backlash.