Ten reasons for Rutgers sports fans to give thanks this year

·7 min read

Thanksgiving is so very often linked with sports, the football game on the television often complimented by an aggressive game of two-hand touch in the backyard between servings of turkey and pie. This year, there is a lot to be thankful for and Rutgers sports fans are no different.

Mmmm, pie.

OK, back to the original topic here.

It has been a banner year for Rutgers sports in many, many areas.

In light of everything that is currently going on in the world, sports often times doesn’t rank as a priority. But over the past two years, sports and Rutgers athletics have done more than be a distraction, often serving as a reason to cheer.

And while not perfect, Rutgers is certainly trending in the right direction.

A look at 10 reasons for Rutgers fans to be thankful for this past year.

10. Cliff Omoruyi and Jaden Jones

Rutgers’ Cliff Omoruyi (11) dunks against DePaul during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Mark Black)

Omoruyi, a sophmore center and Jones, a true freshman small forward, have emerged as positives during a bit of a rough start for men’s basketball. Omoruyi and Jones will be part of the core for the men’s team moving forward, no matter how the current team does this year.

Both players have been producing at a Big Ten level through the season’s opening out-of-conference schedule. If Omoruyi can con control his fouls, he could be an elite big man. Jones is knocking on the door for starting minutes. He could be close to cracking the top five.

9. Meredith Civico

The field hockey head coach, Civico has been methodically building a foundation for this program, the results of which paid off this year. The Big Ten Tournament title and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament were impressive accomplishments for a team that steadily rose up the NFHCA rankings throughout the season.

The 19-4 record this season was the best ever in program history.

While a loss in the Elite Eight was a disappointing end to the season, this is a program that is clearly headed in the right direction and growing. Civico has done a good job recruiting and hitting the transfer portal for impact players. She is a model coach for Rutgers.

8. RU Riot Squad and bori_blanco

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Rutgers Scarlet Knights fans celebrate after defeating the Syracuse Orange 17-7 at the Carrier Dome on September 11, 2021 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

It isn’t always easy being a Rutgers sports fan, a history of losing programs is not for the faint of heart. And when a team is good and gaining traction, it seems like a heart-breaking loss is never far away to stop any and all momentum.

That makes the hardcore, passionate Rutgers fans all the more impressive. There are those like Eddie Antommarci, the Rutgers super fan who goes by @bori_blanco on Twitter and is regularly tweeting love for the Scarlet Knights at recruits.

There is also the RU Riot Squad, a group of hardcore fans who stay for the whole game and lead the student section in cheers and enthusiasm. Thankfully, the athletic department has given them plenty to cheer about this year and football is not far away from becoming relevant again.

7. Noah Vedral

Noah Vedral
Noah Vedral

Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral (0) reacts between downs in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

In and of itself, is not easy to be a Big Ten quarterback. It is certainly not easy to be a Big Ten quarterback when the offensive line protecting you is struggling to do so.

But for two years, the Nebraska transfer has done just that, being an absolute gamer for the program. Vedral is often not appreciated by Rutgers fans, but that doesn’t stop him from playing through injuries and continually putting his body on the line each and every game.

The kid loves the program. It is time for Rutgers fans to love him back.

6. Greg Brown...Amy and Jeff Tower...Gary and Barbara Rodkin...Ron and Joanna Garutti

Five of the most influential backers of Rutgers athletics, Brown and the dynamic Towers duo along with the Rodkins and The Garuttis, very quietly have made the success of the athletics department over the past year possible.

Rutgers may not have the big-time boosters of the blueblood programs nationally, but these five individuals have a real heartbeat for Rutgers and the athletic department.

5. Steve Pikiell

Rutgers men's basketball head coach Steve Pikiell.
Rutgers men's basketball head coach Steve Pikiell.

Oct 7, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Steve Pikiell greets Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren during Big Ten Media Day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Rutgers is off to a disappointing start on the hardcourt, but Pikiell has accomplished a lot by simply making Rutgers relevant. He’s recruited well enough to get this program to a good level that should see the men’s team consistently in the NCAA Tournament.

A 3-2 start to the men’s season is well below expectations. But after the success of the last two years, Pikiell has earned a little time before the sky starts falling.

4. Six lax transfers

Men’s lacrosse may be the program closest to realizing Rutgers goal of winning a national championship. And six transfers into the program will be counted on to take this program to the next step and not simply make the NCAA Tournament but win a championship.

The six transfer players are talented and experienced: Brad Apgar (Salisbury), Mitch Bartolo (Penn), Bryant Boswell (Bucknell), Toby Burgdorf (Providence), Ronan Jacoby (Wesleyan) and Sam Stephan (Mount St. Mary’s). It is one of the best transfer classes in the nation.

Frankie Tagliaferri

The transfer of Tagliaferi can not be overstated for its impact as she transformed a very good women’s soccer program into an elite one.

Rutgers women’s soccer has always had an identity of being a strong defensive unit, one committed to keeping its shape and not allowing goals. The addition of Tagliaferi, a senior attacker who transferred this offseason from powerhouse Penn State, turned Rutgers into a dominant team in the final third.

The women’s program is in the Elite Eight and earned its first ever No. 1 seed in an NCAA Tournament. Tagliaferri, with 13 goals and eight assists, has been a dynamic scorer and playmaker for head coach Mike O’Neill.

2. Greg Schiano

Head coach Greg Schiano after rubbing the toe, a Rutgers football tradition, of the First Football Game Monument before the team arrives before the game as Temple played Rutgers in the season opener at SHI Stadium.

Of course Schiano is on this list. He transformed Rutgers once before from a shambolic mess into a legitimate college football program and he’s in the process of doing it again.

And he’s going to do it the right way, making sure his players graduate and represent the university well.

Hopefully, he gets his new team facility and the support needed to get this team to a high level. Rutgers is blessed to have him as the face of the school in many ways.

1. Pat Hobbs

Rutgers Athletic Director, Pat Hobbs on the second floor in the lobby of the Gary And Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center, part of the multiple new and upgraded athletic facilities on the campus of Rutgers University as seen at the Piscataway campus on August 5, 2021.
New And Upgraded Athletic Facilities On The Campus Of Rutgers University As Scene At The Piscataway Campus On August 5 2021

It isn’t easy being Hobbs, the Rutgers athletic director. But at the end of the day, Hobbs has made some good hires and given some much-needed support to upgrade Rutgers to a Big Ten level university.

Even with some limited resources.

Sure, there are reasons to nitpick and criticize, it comes with the territory of hos job. But football is headed in the right direction, wrestling is a powerhouse, men’s soccer is headed in the right way and is finally respectable, women’s soccer is among the best in the nation, field hockey had a banner year in the toughest conference in the country and both lacrosse programs are among the very best in the nation.

From where Rutgers was as a whole several years ago, this is significant progress and growth. Hobbs has by and large been a home run hire for Rutgers.

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