Lockout Assisting Rutgers?

May 5, 2011

By: Brian Sokolowski- SOR Staff Writer


Rutgers Stadium

Rutgers Stadium

Last week, I made my way up to Rutgers Stadium to go and see the Rutgers Spring Game. Like most people in attendance, I received the Rutgers Day emails that told me what was going on and received one from the athletic department about the game festivities.


Part of that was a bunch of former Scarlet Knights returning to their alma mater to sign some autographs and attend the game. Ray Rice, Gary Brackett, Devin McCourty and other Pro Bowl caliber players returned and spend the whole day enjoying the company of one another and speaking with fans and players. When I originally saw this, I thought that was a very nice change of pace for them to give back like that.
Then I realized at the game the function that is having such an impact to make this happen as my friend asked me “how did they manage to get all of them back at once?” It’s the NFL Lockout. The Lockout means that all of those players cannot train at team facilities, do not have a current “deal” since the union dissolved, and can now do what they’d like to do with their time. While I’m sure Rutgers was planning this well in advance, I’m also sure the reason why so many of them were in attendance was because of the lockout. I mean, one phone call from one to the other and they were all right there.
Then it got me thinking even further. In a football laden area like the greater New York and greater Philadelphia areas, what could that mean for Rutgers football?
We are the closest BCS automatic bid team to New York City and Philadelphia. We didn’t have a coaching change like Temple did and our season is starting to look good with Chas Dodd throwing the ball all over the field and our running backs and offensive line really gelling. We are closer than Syracuse, Penn State, and UConn to all the fans of the New York and New Jersey area. 
So I would think that if fans want to go see a football game and make it a nice few hours of their day to tailgate and take the game in, Rutgers would greatly benefit from that. There always seemed to be about 7,000 seats open at most home games and those seats, as well as others, may become a hot item if the NFL were to be out of business for the year. Imagine going from tailgating on Sundays to not being able to tailgate at all? That would just stink and I’m sure college football would be a great outlet to go to games.
The star power of the audience may increase as well. In the past, we only saw NFL players and MLB players show up to big games midway through the season. Now we may see more people who are football nuts just want to come to games to feed their football appetite. We may see more former RU players and NFL players coming in to see their alma maters quicker and more regularly than in the past. If they have nothing else to do and they live in the area, why not come?
The cost alone would be worth going to college games. Paying over $150 a ticket and $35 to park and now having that money to burn. Rutgers is right there and that money can get you much farther at RU than it can anywhere else.   Most tickets are under $100 and you get much better seats. Parking passes are much more affordable and the fans at the games are a lot of fun. Why pay more money to drive 4-5 hours to see Penn State when you can just run up or down the turnpike and see a game for much less and more of them? If you are used to tailgating every Sunday and that’s part of who you are, then tailgating every Saturday has Rutgers written all over it.
I would love to see what a full Rutgers Stadium all year can do for the team and for the area. This was what Coach Schiano and former AD Bob Mulcahy intended it to be like when they expanded the stadium. They intended to have it full to capacity every game and this seems like an opportunity to have it that way. Over 55,000 New Jerseyans in one place all rooting for their team in unison is pretty unimaginable.
I’d love to see what will happen if the team themselves performs better than expected. What if Rutgers started the season 3-0? How HUGE would that be for the fans and getting people to come to games? Would every Rutgers home game start to be like the 2006 Louisville game where tickets were being sold in the thousands and going to a college sporting event was seen as a “must see”? Could Rutgers tickets be a high demand item? What would the West Virginia game look like when other fans new to Rutgers come to the games? Would they out compete the West Virginia faithful for tickets?
We’d then get to see what it is like to be part of Alabama football, Mississippi football, and other states where the college game came first and has such a rabid fan base that Pro teams are not looked at the same. 
This year could be one of the biggest years in Rutgers football history.  A Rutgers team that appears to be in solid position going into the summer and has a lot of potential on the sideline and now in the coaching booth.   An economy that is starting to turn around and the hope that could boost it even more after the end of the Al Queda conflict. A potential NFL lockout boosting ticket sales would be unimaginable and unfathomable heights. Winning new fan’s hearts by showing them what Rutgers football is all about, in the parking lot and during the game.
It can be a whirlwind that Rutgers football could benefit from in the end. We are only a few days away from finding out the verdict on the NFL season. If that verdict is negative, Rutgers better start pulling out all the stops to get those fans to games. Either way, we welcome any newcomers with open arms to Rutgers Stadium and hope you enjoy your stay!