Rutgers Fans See Potential for a B1G Future
In Part Two of this two part series on the future of Rutgers athletics we take a look at “Rutgers B1G Future” by examining where alumni and fans see the Athletic Department five years down the road. What became clear is that the supporters of the school are longing to see more of New Jersey become supportive of Rutgers athletics, and they would like to see this facilitated by a more active Rutgers administration.
Rutgers alumnus and fan Jay Poole started, “The first thing Rutgers has to do is go on seasonal public relations blitzes; one during the summer, one during the end of fall, and one during the spring. With the amount of radio stations in New York City and Philadelphia, it would behoove the school to utilize what should be unheard of media access for the University’s athletic department.”
Owner of Papa Grande Grille in New Brunswick, NJ as well as Rutgers alumnus and fan Bruce Jones agreed with Poole saying, “I think it’s all about the allocation of advertising dollars. If you look at the ‘Do AC’ campaign, the billboards and commercials were all over the place. The New Jersey Turnpike billboards have access to catch the eyes of tens of thousands of cars daily. If Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaning and JFK hospital can afford them, Rutgers can certainly spend some money. The Atlantic City Expressway is another great location. We live in a region that is so densely populated and we don’t take full advantage of marketing opportunities.”
RUFanJerry @rufanjerry, nj.com fan blogger and host of podcast R B1G Show agrees with fellow fans that Rutgers location is underutilized. Jerry explained, “The school needs to continue to promote the football program in the New York City area as big-time college football being played down the road.”
Rutgers’ supporters feel that Rutgers athletics is a sleeping giant and that school pride is waiting to be awakened.
Poole commented on the game-day experience, “the spirit varies from group to group. Some view the games as excuses to drink and party outdoors, others view it as an event for us fans to support the athletes and cheer them on. So the spirit among fans ranges from indifferent to fanatical, and we need get more people towards that fanatical level.”
Jerry feels that it is important for the current students to become more active in the game-day experience. Jerry said, “Rutgers needs to create teams of students who will be tasked with creating social events around athletic events. Going to the football game needs to be at the center of the social calendar in the fall. Utilizing social media and other grass roots efforts students and student organizations will be best able to reach out to their peers.”
Many see a chasm between the administration and current students that needs to be bridged.
Current student New Brunswick Campus student and Rutgers Dance Team Member Megan Waelz feels that the administration should try to make more direct connections to the students in order to foster more pride. Waelz said, “I think a lot of the promotion of Rutgers athletics focused more on alumni than towards current students. While the alumni are clearly the ones with the money, I think it would be beneficial for the school to connect with students so that they can eventually become alumni that want to buy season tickets and donate to the school.”
Poole agrees that there seems to be a disconnect between current students and the athletic teams. Poole expounded, “School spirit definitely seems stronger among the alumni of Rutgers. There has and seemingly always will be a part of the student body that is against Rutgers, and I’m not just talking about athletics. I wish this would change and hopefully it does as we venture into uncharted territory athletically and academically.”
Ed Philipp from Connecticut (@edphilipp), feels that the die-hard Rutgers fans are an essential component of the Rutgers football experience and that the school needed more of them. Philipp said, “fans that attend the games have a high level of school spirit all decked out in Scarlet. It’s great to see all of the tailgate setups and some incorporate a high level of school spirit such as vintage knights, custom flags and scarlet vehicles. It’s all great to see.”
Jones agreed, “I feel like the fans have a ton of spirit. Having season tickets in section 106 since 2007, I have gotten to know a lot if the same people. The die-hards are always there rooting hard.”
Waelz followed, “The spirit during a Rutgers game is awesome. From a dance team member’s standpoint, I get to see all of the excitement throughout the entire day, from selling 50/50 tickets while walking through the tailgates, all the way to the final moments of the game on the field.”
It was also apparent that the Rutgers die-hards want a winner and think that winning trumps all when it comes to competition for the NY/NJ entertainment dollar.
Jerry explained, “This area has a ‘if you build it we will come’ populace. There are just too many competing entities for the entertainment dollar for many to commit. However, if the football program can produce you will see a major increase in both ticket sales and popularity of the team.”
Philipp thinks winning would not only cultivate new fans but would also raise school spirit among current students, alumni and fans alike. Philipp said, “nothing brings out more school spirit than winning and being able to have bragging rights with co-workers, friends and internet bullies.”
Jerry described the role that winning has on recruiting. He explained, “the state has a ton of high school football talent and the simple message of keeping the large majority of these top players home has to be sold: If you stay we win. If you all stay, we can win B1G.”
Supporters of Rutgers feel that winning would not only raise school spirit but could also help with Rutgers ongoing problem of alumni donations. Currently only eight percent of alumni give back to the school which would rank Rutgers last among all schools in the Big Ten. This is an ongoing problem and recently Athletic Director Julie Hermann has added staff specifically to address this issue.
Poole thinks the school is not aggressive and original enough with their approach to fundraising. Poole explained, “The school should go on a marketing campaign to get as many alumni signed up for a low cost donation program that would take out small automatically recurring donations. With such a set up the athletic department could raise a few million a year that is stable and then they could supplement that with larger donations. I would also have this program reward priority points for season tickets as well as discounts to sporting events, and even monthly giveaways to members. The school needs to make it enticing for alumni to give.”
In spite of the obstacles that need to be overcome, fans and students alike have high hopes for the future of Rutgers athletics.
Waelz feels that the passion some fans currently have is a sign that the future could be bright at Rutgers. She relayed, “The best part of the football game day experience for me might be the build-up to kickoff. I know a lot of students aren’t at the stadium early in the morning, but since I am, it’s kind of neat to see how much people are really pumped up for the game from the early hours. I mean, for a 7:00 kickoff, people tailgating at 11:00 in the morning or earlier.”
Philipp has hopes of a, “sold out stadium that fills in a sea of scarlet BEFORE kickoff. Parking lots filled with scarlet faithful five to six hours before kick-off tailgating and a jam packed ESPN Gameday set just outside the North Gate.”
Jones followed, “I have the same hopes of every other fan which is to build a winning program. I want nine to ten win seasons every year with packed stadiums, crazy tailgates and ESPN highlights. I believe it can come but the question remains if it will.”
Poole finished, “All I want is for Rutgers to truly become New Jersey’s school. It would be amazing to actually be one of those schools that are covered extensively in the media, and I really believe that we have the potential to do so.”
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