Rutgers is the Real Deal
an in-person, on campus, in the press box, on the field report by College Athletics Clips Editor Nick Infante
I WISH I COULDA BEEN IN THE RUTGERS LOCKER ROOM at halftime. The Scarlet Knights trudged into their sanctuary down 25-14. In that sorry first half, Rutgers looked nothing like an 8-0 team, and Louisville looked like a consensus national championship.
Last year Louisville beat Rutgers 56-5, and it seemed like the Cardinals would have their way again last night.
Enter coach Greg Schiano into that somber Rutgers locker room. There was no desperation, panic or lack of confidence. The savvy, wizened 40-year old calmed and coaxed his shell-shocked 20-year old charges, and – trite though it may sound – they charged (not trudged) out onto the field for a completely different second half.
But it was a completely different second half. Louisville never knew what hit them. Final score: Rutgers 28, Louisville 25; thanks to an immensely spectacular field goal to win it with 13 seconds left in the game. It was like a Hollywood script.
But let me start at the beginning. It all started when I had the, er, foresight to dump his Trek 600 mountain bike into the back of my Explorer.
I got to Rutgers five hours before kick-off, parked in a remote lot, and pedaled toward the stadium. I went past classroom buildings and dorm buildings. Rutgers is about as big (25,000) students and as sprawling as a state U can be, so I had a nice long ride on the glorious sunny day of 65 degrees.
If one did not know there was a big game going on that night, one would not have known it from the businesslike scurrying and sauntering of the students. No wild carousing, no loud music no coeds hanging out of fifth floor windows.
I rode around the entire perimeter of the stadium, and spoke with security people, tailgaters, state troopers, etc. The common theme: this 8-0 success was a long time coming, and they were positively delighted. It was like Red Sox fans a couple years ago at the World Series.
I dawdled for a while at the live remote trailer of the “Mike and the Mad Dog” WFAN radio program. Although it’s technically a “local” radio program, it’s hard to categorize a 50,000 watt super-signal in the massive greater New York area as local.
I wiggled through the throng, and happened to end up right in the “on-deck” area for the show. I spoke with Bob Mulcahy and Mike Tranghese (Big East Commissioner) before they were interviewed extensively by Mike and the Mad Dog (known in real life as Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo).
Mulcahy is among the more forthright ADs I’ve seen. He skillfully addressed the elimination of six teams at Rutgers a couple months ago by commenting that there are only two other BCS schools with 30 sports (Ohio State and Stanford), and that those schools’ budgets far exceed Rutgers: Ohio State at $90 million and Stanford over $50 million, while Rutgers’ budget is $37.
AND THEN THE GAME ITSELF? What can I say? If you missed it, you missed a truly terrific game.
I witnessed the game while ensconced in the rarified confines of the Rutgers press box, where we working press were very well taken care of.
After the game I clumsily made my way all the way to the other side of the field to attend the post-game press conference. It was clumsy because there were about 10,000 joyous student fans milling about on the FieldTurf field.
In walked Greg Schiano, and his face looked as poker-like as it would have been had he lost the game. As questions were asked, Schiano loosened up and smiled that winning smile.
I thought the coach’s best line was, “You can’t control the outcome, but you can control the process.”
THERE WAS MUCH TALK - in the press box, during the Mike and the Mad Dog show, among the fans – about how long Greg Schiano will be for Rutgers. Any number of desperate-to-get-better schools would/could easily double the “modest” compensation package that
One can tell plenty from a firm hand shake and a look in the eyes. After the press conference I shook Greg’s hand and he looked me straight in the eye. Based on talking to him for 30 seconds, I say Greg Schiano will stay at Rutgers. You heard it here first.
I will close with the headline of Harvey Araton’s game recap in today’s New York Times: “College Football Has New Hotbed in New Jersey.”
So true, Harvey, so true . . . . . .
This commentary was composed the morning after the game by a sleep-deprived Nick Infante. He is the founder and editor of College Athletics Clips, which is a paid subscription website that provides executive summaries of college athletics news and issues.
Now we want to hear from all of you! For those of your who were at the game: what was your experience at the game like? How did you celebrate? And to all NCAA Football fans what do you think of this win? Can Rutgers make it to the BCS? If you have any photos from the game, tailgating, etc, send them to our master blogger, David Walker.