PISCATAWAY, N.J. (June 2, 2014) – It’s easy to get caught looking ahead these days at Rutgers with so much of the focus on the school officially joining the Big Ten on July 1.
The reality is – even before that historic event occurs – 2014 has already provided its share of athletic highlights to celebrate, both on the field and in the classroom.
All-Americans, coaches of the year, national recognition on the academic front, facilities upgrades, the full push to get “R Care” underway. All were part of the noteworthy accomplishments of the recent semester.
“Our staff and students have been incredibly focused as we continue to become Big Ten ready,” said Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann. “Our student-athletes’ commitment to perform both on the field and in the classroom is a testimony to their pursuit of excellence.
“Our staff has been working double time to upgrade, prepare, review, re-tool , assess and implement the scores of items required to switch conferences. They are the inspired proud workers on behalf of Rutgers.”
Start with standouts in the athletic arena during the just-completed winter/spring semester:
• Corey Crawford earned first-team All-America honors for his performances during the indoor track season, then broke his own school long jump record at the IC4A championships earlier this month. The redshirt junior finished second in the long jump at the NCAA East Regional, qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
• Senior Nicole Scott, one of the most decorated divers in school history in and out of the pool, earned honorable mention All-America honors to cap her career at Rutgers. She is the program’s first All-America in six years.
• Redshirt sophomore wrestler Anthony Perrotti earned All-American honors in the 157-pound weight class – the program’s first All-American in 12 years.
• The women’s basketball team capped a 28-9 season by winning the WNIT for the first time in school history, adding to the credentials of Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.
Among the coaches:
• Gymnastics coach Louis Levine was named East Atlantic Gymnastic League Coach of the Year after guiding his squad to the highest regular season regional qualifying score (195.200) in school history. The team qualified for the NCAA Regionals and recorded six of the top 10 scores in program history.
• Swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello was named American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. Rutgers was represented at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships by Nicole Scott and Joanna Wu – the school’s strongest presence at the event since 2007-08.
“We had some excellent success stories in our Olympic sports this year, especially with our gymnastics, wrestling, swimming and diving and track and field squad with three All-Americans and two Coach of the Year honors,” said Kate Hickey, Rutgers’ Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator. “These successes provide great momentum heading into the Big Ten Conference.”
• Legendary baseball coach Fred Hill had his No. 24 retired at a ceremony at Bainton Field. Hill, the winningest coach in school history, had a 941-658-7 record for his 30 seasons with the Scarlet Knights.
(The final celebration of Hill’s remarkable coaching career will take place during a halftime ceremony of the Nov. 1 Homecoming game against Wisconsin).
The academic honors were equally impressive:
• The latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores saw the football team finish No. 10 nationally with a 980 score -- the program’s sixth top 10 showing in the past seven years. In addition, the second semester saw 41 football players achieve a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or higher, 16 make Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.5 or higher and three achieve perfect 4.0 GPAs. The overall team GPA of 2.96 tied the program record set in the fall.
• Women’s lacrosse and women’s golf earned national recognition from the NCAA for posting perfect APR scores of 1,000.
“It’s a tribute to the student-athletes and their dedication to academic success,” said Scott Walker, Rutgers’ Director of Academic Support Services for Student-Athletes. “It is also a testament to the importance placed on academics by these coaches.”
• Diver Nicole Scott was named the AAC’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was also honored as Woman of the Year by the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. She had a double major of Food Science and Nutritional Science and a minor in Biological Sciences.
• Junior attacker Melissa Arthur of the women’s lacrosse team was named a recipient of the Scholar Baller National First Team Academic Momentum Award, one of 10 student-athletes honored nationally.
• Field hockey senior Sarah Stuby was named a Henry Rutgers Scholars Award recipient by the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. The Henry Rutgers Scholars Award recognizes graduating seniors who have completed outstanding independent research projects leading to a thesis in their major field of study or an interdisciplinary thesis.
The improvement in facilities with the Big Ten beckoning was also well underway:
• DAS System is in the process of upgrading the technology and cell capabilities throughout High Point Solutions Stadium (read: better cell phone access).
• Homeland Security, through Middlesex County, has provided camera systems and bollards for improved safety at HPSS.
• Bathrooms are being added and there will be a widened concourse from East to West in HPSS.
• There will be additional ribbon boards throughout HPSS.
• The RAC has two additional corner panels to provide information (the first two were in place last basketball season) and four additional LED boards, as well as new ribbon boards.
“The addition of the center hung scoreboard, new lighting and the two corner pole panels last year took the game experience up a notch at the RAC,” said Geoff Brown, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Marketing Office. “Having the additional LED signage is going to take it up another notch.”
• Preparing the general Big Ten readiness of High Point Solutions Stadium by expanding the festival experience of game day. Fans will shortly begin seeing signage on major thoroughfares throughout the state heralding Rutgers’ membership in the Big Ten, which becomes official July 1.
• The coaches at the RAC have renovated offices, with administrators in the building giving up their office space for head coaches and their assistants. The men’s basketball staff has moved into the former athletic director’s suite; the women’s basketball offices have been expanded and upgraded; women’s soccer moved into new offices; women’s field hockey has a new suite for coaches; the men’s and women’s golf coaches have moved from cubicles to an office, and the baseball staff is preparing to move into a new suite of offices.
Tying all of that together has been the push by Hermann to have “R Care” fully operational.
The purpose of “R Care” is to provide “comprehensive wrap around care and development for all Rutgers student-athletes, including holistic health care, academic support, career development and participation, leadership development and community service,” according to its mission statement.
“R Care” will be comprised of professionals within athletics, campus units and the community.