New York's Fumble Recovery

Why Rutgers deserves more New York love, and Notre Dame less

In 2004, former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung stirred up a hornet's nest by suggesting that the school needed to relax its academic standards to "get the black athlete." If Hornung had said that Notre Dame needed to lower its standards to get the best football players—most of whom, since the mid-'60s or so, have been black—nobody could have criticized him. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has found a way to recruit the best football players, black and white—after more than 60 years, someone has once again discovered that New York might actually be an attraction to an all-American-caliber high-school player—and has added a whole new dimension to the local sports scene, the kind of genuine enthusiasm that is native to college football and can only be imitated in pro-football stadiums.

Last week, Rutgers officials sent an open letter of apology to the U.S. Naval Academy for the taunting of Navy players by Rutgers fans. How satisfying that must have secretly been to the Rutgers administration: Not since the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant have Rutgers football fans been in a position to taunt anybody.

Rutgers' resounding victory last Saturday over Norfolk State may not seem like much, but Norfolk State is exactly the kind of school that Rutgers used to lose to and now dominates. The Scarlet Knights may not be ready to challenge Southern Cal, Florida, or Ohio State for national supremacy, but they have raised the bar for New York–area college football. If New Yorkers see no contradiction in driving to New Jersey to watch their pro-football teams, they should have no problem claiming Rutgers as their own.

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