COMMENTARY: Rutgers no longer laughing stock to nation
 
 
By Paul Yunos Jr. Daily Targum

New Brunswick, NJ (U-WIRE) -- I said it when they were 2-1 and my prediction came true.

In case you didn't read my column of the Rutgers football team back in September, the self-proclaimed stat boy said this Scarlet Knights team was going to be different. It was finally going to be the end of losing pains and the old saying of, "When will a program in hibernation return to a bowl after its 27-year absence?"

Now that hope has been restored on the Banks with a ticket headed to Phoenix for the Insight Bowl against Arizona State on Dec. 27, head coach Greg Schiano has finally turned things around.

He's finally delivered - not only with Rutgers first bowl appearance since 1978, but with a new outlook on New Jersey Division I football.

"The goal is still what I said the first day I got here, and quite frankly I got laughed at then and will still get laughed at," Schiano said Monday during the Bowl Invitation press conference. "We came here to build a program that will win a national championship. Along the way there are bowl games, conference championships and then there is the national championship."

Well, hold the thought of national championship, but he's right in the sense people would laugh at the idea of Rutgers in a bowl game.

Doug Graber couldn't do it. Terry Shea couldn't do it. But Schiano did.

Despite only having a 19-38 record with the scarlet and white, Schiano can finally say to recruits, 'We've been to a bowl game and we're building something special here.'

"I was blessed and fortunate to know what some of the short comings were," Schiano said when recollecting when he first took over the job. "I was able to ask questions to [Rutgers Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy III] and [University President Richard L. McCormick] that we were willing to do the things necessary to give us a chance.

"This has been a process that has been going along awhile in the state of New Jersey. This is just a step."

The bowl bid won't only affect the recruiting process in the Garden State, but nationally, as well. With a nationally televised game on ESPN and a program that was typically seen as a perennial loser, the country can finally open its eyes to what's unfolding in New Jersey.

No longer will conference foes like Syracuse tell players like Brian Leonard, "Why go to Rutgers? They're not going to a bowl."

"This legitimizes Rutgers, because you can only go so far with the line 'We're building it," Bobby Burton, editor of rivals.com said on NJ.com.

It's one of the reasons why the Board of Directors of the Insight Bowl were so intrigued during the Knights' 44-9 rout over Cincinnati. They realize the storyline behind the birthplace of college football - the place where it all started.

"There's two reasons we like Rutgers so much," said Stan Laybourne, Board of Directors for the Insight Bowl. "One is the tradition and two is the growth of an athletic program. We like the tailgating, and the overall atmosphere of college football here."

As far as the money situation goes, here are the numbers:

The Insight Bowl pays each school's athletic conference - in this case the Big East and Pac-10 - $750,000. That money is thrown into a mix of close to $20 million the Big East Conference will collect during the four postseason games. West Virginia clinched the conference's BCS spot in the Sugar Bowl, while Louisville is headed to Gator Bowl. Rounding out the slate is either South Florida or Connecticut, depending on what happens this weekend.

But most importantly, Rutgers fans can say something they haven't said since the year Pete Rose collected his 3,000th hit: 'Let's go bowling.'

(C) 2004 Daily Targum via U-WIRE


 
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