Rutgers is a humongous institution. Its size is easily noticeable when it comes to soft data: the number of students (that nearly exceeds 40 thousand on New Brunswick campus), the countless number of extra-curricular activities, and finally, the unlimited number of sport organizations that one can join here.
Without a doubt, it is excellent to have a wide range of such opportunities. The way of spending time in college is a matter of individual attitude, since everyone, to a bigger or smaller extent, plans a weekly schedule on their own. Playing sports is a matter of a personal preference, and everyone can make their own decision about how active they want to be.
Teams that belong to the first category are usually participating in amateur leagues inside the school for recreational purposes. They can be formed by people of both sexes and who, in general, seek a fun way to spend their free time.
Varsity, however, are the most prestigious teams, greatly supported by the university. Members of such, in recognition for their hard work, are sponsored and offered scholarships; they also compete with other colleges at the highest level and often achieve excellent results in the National Championships.
It is not easy to describe what is in between. Club teams usually gather players that represent the university and play against other schools, but at the same time are not as generously sponsored by their alma matter as varsity teams are. As stated on the Rutgers recreation page, “Rutgers Sport Clubs continue on as student run organizations that exist to assist individuals to develop skills and improve their performance in a particular sport or physical activity.”
What can be inferred from this sentence is that the members of club team are not considered to be stars, but rather students who are just willing to improve themselves in a particular discipline — what further implies that club sports are taken less-seriously by Rutgers and are not really considered to be as competitive as varsity.
It is not surprising that some sports are prioritized over others, because this happens through the entire world — based on region, sports that gain the most attention are also the object of financial support.
Therefore, I can understand that Rutgers, as a member of Big Ten Conference, puts an enormous amount of money into American Football (nearly 19M in 2014, according to nj.com), even though the performance of this team in the past fall was, to put it mildly, far below expectations — that, nevertheless, does not stop the fans from filling the High Points Solution Stadium to the last seat (especially during the game against Penn State).
I mentioned all of that because I want to emphasize, that the postulate I’m presenting is not against any sport; it is pro some particular values — such as respect of the tradition and hard work — that are essential in the Rutgers curriculum, but at the same time are not entirely executed by the Board of Directors of Rutgers University.
Every sport is special, but for me the most meaningful is the one that was first at Rutgers — crew.
I described some of my experiences with rowing in my first article. For more than 150 years (since 1864) each generation of Scarlett male rowers is united by the same values: hard work put at every practice, its intensity, and finally the beauty and unspeakable satisfaction that it gives.
Being a part of the rowing team is a big responsibility and an honor. Unfortunately, a few years ago, crew has been relegated from a varsity to a club team status.
University explained that the decision was made because of the financial reasons. It is a strong point, but the explanation that came beyond it was not persuasive. In the article on this topic by Joe Rivera, it turns out that Rutgers overestimated the cost of restoring the varsity status over 300 times!
Rutgers Crew Team competes with the best among the nation, such as the schools from both Ivy League and the West Coast. Varsity status should be awarded to Rutgers crew not for the sake of every student being sponsored, because I can understand that the current budget is incapable of spending so much money, but rather in recognition of the tradition formed “on the banks of the old Raritan”, that this university so proudly tells about in its alma matter. As well as in recognition to the sport that sent 14 athletes on the Olympic Games.
I truly feel that bringing back varsity status to the crew team is very important. It is not only about the money — obviously, there is always a need for financial support — but most importantly about showing that Rutgers is proud of people, who represent one of the oldest and finest traditions of this school.