Rutgers athletic director remains optimistic about football program despite challenges this season
In an email to the student body yesterday, Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs discussed the challenges that the football team faced this year.
“When I arrived at Rutgers three years ago our Athletics Department was facing many challenges. Our programs, with notable exceptions, were struggling to be competitive. No significant investment had been made in facilities in decades. Fundraising needed a boost and morale was low,” Hobbs said in the email.
He acknowledged the team did not achieve its goals, but remained optimistic about the program’s future. This was mainly rooted in numerous developments made to athletics infrastructure such as strength and conditioning facilities at the Hale Center and a new baseball and softball practice facility, along with new additions to come such as the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center set to open in July and the Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center in the spring, according to the email.
“Our football program has a solid core of young talent returning in 2019. Thirty of our first or second year student-athletes saw action for the first time and we return 18 players who have started,” he added.
In separate instances this semester, members of the team were subjected to criminal charges.
During the summer, eight players were charged in connection with a credit card scheme of more than $11,000 that resulted in some players being kicked off the team and others continuing their careers at different schools, according to NJ Advance Media.
Most recently, Izaia Bullock, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, was charged with double attempted murder after planning to kill the family of his ex-girlfriend, according to The Daily Targum. He was removed from the team shortly after.
Hobbs is hoping to keep the peace between the Scarlet Knight faithful and football head coach Chris Ash after many fans called for his job as it became more evident that this season would not end well.
After Ash’s first season on the Banks resulted in a winless Big Ten record, Rutgers made progress last year by picking up conference wins over Purdue, Illinois and Maryland. The Knights had expectations of making a bowl game this year, but that idea fell apart.
Rutgers began the season with a win over Texas State, but even in that game, the Knights showed some signs of what was to come of their season. Despite throwing for his first career touchdown in the 35-7 victory, true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski threw three interceptions in the game.
Over the span of the remaining 11 games this year — which all resulted in losses — Sitkowski threw another 15 interceptions and ended up tied at 18 with Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert for most interceptions in the nation.
The Knights lost their final two non-conference games against Kansas and Buffalo, losing by a combined score of 97-27.
The bulk of the Big Ten schedule did not go well for Rutgers either, as it lost 6 of the final 8 games by more than 10 points. Close games against Northwestern and Michigan State gave fans a taste of what could be, but ultimately the Knights could not close things out and get either win.
Ash’s contract runs until now through 2022.