Last week, bscaff got the inside scoop on what's like to have Maryland as a conference foe courtesy of a Duke basketball blogger. This week, we're doing the same thing with the Big Ten's other newcomer, [Big Ten Powerhouse] Rutgers. Rutgers' fan base reminds me of a guy I went to high school with who gained a reputation for talking smack when it came to his pickup basketball skills but could never back it up on the court. All of his mediocre (at best) performances still didn't stop him from spouting off his delusional garbage, though. Likewise, when Rutgers fans aren't busy spewing hatred of all things Penn State and Pennsylvania-related, they're busy with their mastubatory fantasies of being a top-tier Big Ten program right off the bat, despite coming from a mediocre Big East/AAC conference that they never once managed to win, not even with their greatest team ever in 2006.
To confirm the legitimacy of our feelings, we hit up Sean Keeley, manager of SB Nation's Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to give us a primer on what to expect, given that Syracuse and Rutgers were once Big East foes back in the day.
BSD: First of all, thanks for doing this Q&A with us. What is the very first thing that we should know about Rutgers and its fan base? Am I right to diagnose their fan base with a strong case of 'little brother' syndrome? Were they always this obnoxious? I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to September 13th when we finally get the opportunity to put a damper on their cute little #ChopPSU and 'That Team From Pennsylvania' monikers.
Sean: Rutgers fans didn't actually exist before 2005. I know this because I grew up 20 minutes from New Brunswick in the 80's and 90's. Do you know how many Rutgers fans I knew? Three. THREE. Can you imagine a high school near Ohio State or Wisconsin that isn't loaded with OSU or Wisconsin fans, respectively? That's how little anyone cared about Rutgers. You never saw a Rutgers bumper sticker. You never saw a Rutgers flag. And you certainly never saw anyone wearing Rutgers gear. It just wasn't a consideration at all.
Then, all of a sudden when the program shot up in the mid-2000's, Rutgers fans grew up like mushrooms, spouting off wisdom about how they were an elite program, the days of Penn State & Syracuse were over and they were about to take their rightful place among college football's elite. And they've kept this up the whole time, even as the program has underachieved. They refuse to let go of this notion of their unearned greatness. When you meet a Rutgers fan and they start going on and on about how they're going to own Penn State, trust me, they're not being sarcastic. They really mean it.
Always remember: The greatest season in the history of Rutgers football ended in the Texas Bowl. Done.
Let's time travel back to November 9, 2006. Louisville instead of choking away its 25-7 lead, plays like a team actually deserving of its Top 10 ranking and goes on to handle Rutgers. Does the entire trajectory of Rutgers football (and subsequently, its fanbase) change? Are they even invited to join the B1G several years later?
Sean: Honestly, we're still trying to figure out why you guys invited them. Again, I grew up near there. They aren't in New York City. They're barely closer to New York City than they are to Philadelphia, but don't get them started on that stuff. RU fans suddenly turn into Media Market Share PhD's when you bring that stuff up.
As I noted earlier, their amazing 2006-07 run ended in the Texas Bowl, so I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference in the end if they had lost that game. Ever since then, they've been respectable for sure, but nothing special, certainly not that the level they seem to think they deserve to be at.
Being a Penn State basketball fan can be summed up as a rather insufferable experience, but just taking a quick look at Rutgers' hoops history, we look more like *ahem* Syracuse in comparison to them. Seriously though, what can we expect from having Rutgers as a regular hoops opponent? Is the RAC as dangerous of a place as people claim it to be?
Sean: We have this fun inside joke over at TNIAAM from a time when it seemed like ESPN was really trying hard to make Rutgers basketball relevant. Pat Forde (at ESPN then) included Rutgers vs. Seton Hall in his list of fiercest college basketball rivalries. Not too long after, Andy Katz included Rutgers - St. John's in his list of toughest rivalries in the sport. In all the time since, RU basketball has not only done everything they could to ruin all of those high hopes but they've done it with a succession of awful head coaches who were also terrible human beings. It's been impressive to watch.
The RAC is a good arena but Syracuse fans routinely took it over when we'd play there, nullifying the threat. I don't know if Penn State fans are willing to do that but, if so, it won't be an issue.
Seriously, are there any sports that Rutgers excels at?
Sean: The women's basketball team is pretty good sometimes. So there's that...
Last but not least, any parting words of wisdom for us Penn State fans on how to put up with the annoying little red menace?
Sean: Rutgers fans will throw a lot of media numbers, scores from 2007 and interesting facts from football games played in 1897 at you, but don't get distracted. They have been an abomination of a football program for 90% of their existence and they haven't been as good in the past decade as they think they have (They'll tell you how much better they are than Syracuse while disregarding the fact that we split the last four meetings with them).
Also, this is really funny.
Well, there you have it, folks. Suspicions confirmed. Thanks once again to Sean for swinging by BSD and departing his wisdom.