By Charles Guthrie
A lot of students on campus have wondered why Rider doesn’t have a football team and if it will ever get one.
If you’re waiting for it to happen, don’t get your hopes up. However, if you’re looking for a place to get your college football fix, look no farther than Piscataway, N.J., home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Why should you root for them? Wouldn’t that make you a front-runner?
No, it wouldn’t make you a front-runner, because Rutgers isn’t ranked right now and if you’re a fan of football especially the college version it makes a lot of sense to pull for the Knights.
In December 2005 Rutgers put itself somewhat on the map of college football when it was able to go blow-for-blow against pass-happy Arizona State, losing 45-40 in the Insight Bowl. That was the Scarlet Knights’ first winning season since 1992. The next year, they exploded onto the scene nearly winning the Big East title with the biggest win in school history, coming against No. 3-ranked Louisville behind an electric crowd and lost a nail-biter to end the season against nationally ranked West Virginia in three overtimes.
The crowd against Louisville on national television was amazing, giving the game a playoff-like feel, which the area never experienced from a college football game. That’s what makes college football amazing and separates it from the pros. Any college football game with some sort of rivalry features that type of atmosphere.
Rutgers became such a spectacle that New York and Philadelphia wanted to embrace their success through the media. This is why people in the area need to get involved, including the students here. The northeast, primarily the tri-state area, is in great need of a big-time college football program and, if you disagree, you don’t know what you’re missing.
While they haven’t met the lofty expectations placed on them this season, the program is going in the right direction under Head Coach Greg Schiano. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re competing for the national championship in the next few years.
They have been overrated by the media and expected to make too big of a jump too soon. What needs to be remembered is that this is only the second year Rutgers has been in the public eye, and it takes time to build a football power.
Prospects who have committed to Rutgers or are still in the process are all in love with the program and how Schiano treats them. No longer are the four- and five-star recruits heading down south; they’re now considering staying in-state to play. One of the things they talk about is the atmosphere at the stadium and the support the team garners. The greater the buzz going into games, the more of a draw the school will be to prospective football players and they will consider it like they consider other elite places.
One knock against the Knights has been their weak non-conference schedule. Part of the reason for this is because the games are scheduled well ahead of time. As Rutgers continues to rise and gain more publicity, it will be able to schedule better opponents from BCS conferences and have them come to Jersey.
Now it’s a process, so it will take a few years before Rutgers becomes a legitimate contender. However, strides are being made and if support continues to grow, so will the accomplishments on the field.
The Knights will play in the International Bowl on Jan. 5. While it isn’t the most luxurious bowl game, especially for one played in early January, it will be the team’s third straight bowl appearance. The team is young right now and will only get better in years to come.
The students here can help shape “the state of Rutgers” in football. Heck, one Rider student is in the band.