Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stronger Than The Storm

TigerBlog can't even remember what he was watching last night when the commercial came on. Maybe it's because the commercial was so good.

It was the "Stronger Than The Storm" commercial, the one with Governor Christie and his family and some others, inviting people back to the Jersey Shore this summer.

The title refers to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the Jersey Shore and other areas back on Oct. 29. The inference is that New Jersey is, as the title says, stronger than Sandy, and as devastating as Sandy was, New Jersey - and especially the Shore - is too tough.

When TigerBlog is asked where he grew up, he usually says near the Jersey Shore. Not on the beach per se. Just close enough to it to go whenever he wanted, without having to plan or rent a beach house or anything.

It wasn't until he got to college that he realized that people actually had to plan beach vacations and trips and all, rather than simply roll out of bed, decide it was a good beach day and know that toes could be on sand within 20 minutes.

The roller coaster that was demolished in the Atlantic Ocean off of Seaside Heights two days ago was part of a boardwalk and amusement park that TB went to often when he was in high school. His favorite ride there was, for the record, the pirate ship.

And then last October, it all was wiped out in one act of nature.

TB has been to the Shore since then, and it was a heart-breaking sight. Roads closed. Beach access denied. Houses wiped out.

Now, as Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start of the summer tourism season - closes in, the Shore is most of the way to it's comeback. And the mantra "Stronger Than The Storm" is perfect.

While he's been blessed to have traveled around the country and the world, TigerBlog has lived all of his life basically within a 50-mile radius of where he currently sits.

There is something different about New Jersey, which sits between New York City and Philadelphia and tries to fight its way out of the shadow of both, especially NYC. It's often the butt of jokes and not always a pretty state, politically or oil refinery-wise, but it has it's own personality, that's for sure.

The biggest news in college athletics in New Jersey yesterday was the hiring by Rutgers of its new Director of Athletics, Julie Hermann, who comes to the school after being the No. 2 person at Louisville.

The fact that she is the third female AD at a BCS school isn't nearly as big a deal as is the task in front of her, and she too will need to be stronger than any storm.

Rutgers finds itself reeling a bit these days after the Mike Rice situation, the forced resignation of its former AD (the very well-liked Tim Pernetti) and the recent revelation that new men's basketball coach Eddie Jordan isn't actually a Rutgers graduate.

Beyond that, Rutgers, much like the state itself, wrestles with finding its own identity in the shadow of some of the giants of college athletics, and that's only going to intensify more as the school moves to the Big 10.

Rutgers ended the winter tied for 102nd in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, tied with Brown, as a matter of fact. Princeton, as a point of reference, is 26th.

The hiring of Hermann as RU AD became a bigger story than the hiring of Pernetti was because of all the recent doings at the school, and because she's a woman, and because of her former employer.

TB is fascinated by it.

Rutgers is 20 minutes away from Princeton. The two played in the first college football game, back on Nov. 6, 1869. They continue to play annually in any number of sports, including men's and women's basketball and lacrosse.

On the other hand, Rutgers is heading into the Big 10, a league by the way for which it is a much better fit than it ever was in the Big East, and as it does so, its eyes are firmly on becoming a national big-time football power, and men's basketball to a slightly lesser extent.

Princeton is in the Ivy League and will be in the Ivy League forever.

Rutgers has basically been at the forefront of the conference realignment situation, and its move to the Big 10 is a huge piece of that puzzle. Its impact resonated throughout big-time college athletics.

Princeton enjoys a level of stability in the tumultuous world of college athletics these days.

When TB read the stories (and comments under them) about Hermann's hiring, they were mostly about her lack of direct oversight experience in football. There was almost no talk about a broad-based commitment, the kind that is the cornerstone of Princeton and Ivy League athletics.

The differences between Rutgers and Princeton have always fascinated TB, largely because they basically started in the same place athletically and academically.

Both were among the nine pre-Colonial colleges and universities (seven Ivies minus Cornell, plus Rutgers and William & Mary). Their roots from that first football game bound them for decades after that.

Rutgers long ago went in a different direction than Princeton.

Maybe TB's fascination with it all is what Princeton Athletics would look like today if this school had made some of those same choices.

Yeah, that's it.

Either way, good luck to Julie Hermann. Hopefully she has a great tenure on the banks of the Raritan, a place 20 minutes away - and in another universe.

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