Rutgers president Robert Barchi, athletic director Pat Hobbs and football coach Chris Ash presented their vision for the athletic department last Thursday during a gathering with over 100 major donors, including Motorola CEO Greg Brown, at the Montclair home of longtime Rutgers athletics supporters Steve Plofker and Bobbi Brown.
The message from Hobbs and Ash, who were both hired within the past three months, is that they’ll need financial support to get Rutgers to the next level.
“It went wonderfully,” said Plofker, a real estate developer and member of Rutgers’ Board of Overseers. “We wanted coach to feel to welcome by the great state of New Jersey. I think he and his staff felt very welcome. Also, it was an opportunity for some of us Rutgers folks to get to know Pat Hobbs a little bit. Everybody seemed to have a nice time. I think there’s a lot of optimism there.”
The guest list included members of Ash’s staff and a collection of former Rutgers football stars, including Brian Leonard, Kevin Malast, Jamaal Westerman, Michael Burton, Khaseem Greene and Gary Gibson.
“It was basically just everybody getting on the same page and creating excitement around Rutgers and the direction we’re trying to go and what we’re trying to get to, which is obviously the pinnacle of the Big Ten,” said Malast, who played linebacker at Rutgers from 2005-08. “Their general message was that it’s going to take everybody to really get this to the top, to pitch in and to play your role to really carry the program and get it where it needs to go.”
Hobbs recently launched the “Rutgers Big Ten Build” initiative, which is aiming to raise $100 million to upgrade the university’s athletic facilities.
“Everybody knows where the university can be,” said Westerman, who played defensive end at Rutgers from 2005-08. “I think that everybody wants that. There was a lot of talk about that. Everybody appreciates what people have done in the past, but a little bit of change is a change in the right direction.”
Hobbs is Rutgers’ third athletic director in the eight years since Malast and Westerman were suiting up for the Scarlet Knights. Hobbs’ predecessors also had grand plans to upgrade the athletic facilities, but they failed to deliver.
“This isn’t an overnight thing,” Malast said. “Rutgers is pulled in a bunch of different directions at times, so I think they just have to get everybody on the same page and continue to build that community and establish that communication. I think that’s the biggest thing that we had problems with in the past. I think they understand that.”
Hobbs and Ash have created momentum in their first months on the job, creating a sense of optimism that has been lacking in recent years.
“The energy was amazing,” said Bobbi Brown, the founder of an enormously successful cosmetics company. “You felt that this is the start of something really big. Between the president, the coach, the athletic director and all the former players, everybody is pretty excited. We’re very optimistic. I think this is going to be a big turnaround. I really feel that.”