The Garden State has been in fiscal crisis practically all of my academic life and my working life. I realized this almost thirty years ago, as a student taxpayer; the tuition at Rutgers tripled between from my freshman year to my senior year.
All that time the campus looked the same, the complaints about the campus were the same. The complaints about traffic, large lecture classes, deferred maintenance, and so on, were the same.
I know that the extra tuition I paid didn't end up in the professor's pockets; it was used to make up cuts in state aid. Higher education received a lower priority in a recessionary economy.
I didn't like it; I was paid triple the tuition to get the same education, but I learned to grit my teeth and bear it. So did my classmates; the alternatives were less attractive.
I know that extra tuition didn't support the football program. In the late 70's, early 80's, the team was just starting to play the major football schools. Rutgers had to play the major games on the road, or at Giants Stadium (sorry Jet fans) in the Meadowlands. Rutgers Stadium was too small to host the major powers on campus. It still is, even with twice the seating we had back in our student days.
I understand the economic arguments against stadium expansion but Rutgers will not be taking the wraps of a new stadium today. Public construction projects have a bid process, a design process, a construction management process. We're talking about a project that won't be completed for two or three years.
A better economy and a better football team can pay it off and what's the alternative?
Play at the Meadowlands?
That's less possible now than it was thirty years ago; the current and future stadiums support two National Football League teams. There are only so many days that they will allow college football to tear up their field.
Two third of Rutgers alumni reside in New Jersey. The current Rutgers Stadium is, if nothing else, in a convenient location for alumni to fill the seats. The Meadowlands is far less convenient.
Rutgers allows 8,000 students to attend games free of charge; this is unique in college football. After I graduated from Rutgers in 1982, I went to the University of Illinois, a school that had a Rose Bowl team. I paid $60 a season for my seats in 1982. That was the same price for a young Rutgers alum in 1994!
I don't think the Sports and Exposition Authority will allow Rutgers students to attend games in an NFL stadium for free; they didn't thirty years ago.
Go "down league" as the Rutgers 1000 has suggested in the past?
The opportunity to play for a national championship puts "meat in the seats." I sincerely doubt that Rutgers would reverse direction after receiving three consecutive bowl bids and playing to capacity crowds.
Obviously, fans can't count on the quality of play at season's eve, but expectations for Rutgers football have risen higher. Optimism breeds enthusiasm, which fills the seats.
Who, at Rutgers, in the 21st century, would be excited about a "Championship Subdivision" schedule, now that the Scarlet Knights have a legitimate shot at something better, something more likely to change the perception of the school for the better?
Alumni who graduated before me might be pleased; they were used to watching their teams play Princeton.