Patrick Hobbs has served as Dean of Seton Hall University Law School. He was selected by Governor Chris Christie as the state’s ombudsman. He led the effort to get Newark to invest $210 million in the Prudential Center. His new challenge: athletic director for Rutgers University. This, after Rutgers fired its media-shy and mistake-prone former AD, Julie Hermann, and embattled football coach Kyle Flood. The RU football program has been troubled since the university’s move to the Big 10 Conference in 2014. The team won only four games last season, and off the field, seven Rutgers players had a series of embarrassing tangles with the law. Restoring faith in the program is just one of the tasks facing Hobbs in his new job.
Steve Adubato: What are some of your key challenges?
Patrick Hobbs: We have a lot of catching up to do on the facilities side. We have a facilities plan which includes a multi-sport practice facility that will serve several of our sports, another facility that will serve men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse, as well as a plan to expand the Hale Center for football. All of our sports will be impacted in one way or another.
SA: What do you have to do to restore the RU brand?
PH: One of the biggest challenges, which we have already met, is hiring the right leadership for our football program. [New head coach] Chris Ash is an individual of great integrity and character and has a commitment to doing it the right way. It starts at the top. If you look at any organization, leadership is cause and all else is effect.
SA: How does the football program recruit young men with integrity and character?
PH: First, the overwhelming majority of young men in our football program are exactly that kind of individual. In an environment where people focus on the ugly episodes, we stop looking at the positive things that so many of our student athletes do. Our football players get involved with Special Olympics, they visit hospitals and sick children. They are decent people and are just as embarrassed as everyone else when things like [the recent incidents] happen. The overwhelming majority of our athletes are committed to that level of integrity and chose Rutgers because they believe in what RU stands for in terms of education.
SA: You have a long-term view. Will boosters and fans share your patience?
PH: I believe they will be patient and they will see progress. If we are competitive in games, and you see young athletes that you know in a year or two will be physically at a different level, you can get excited for the future. The next thing is to help the fans understand the role they play in the process. On game day, how our fans react is the most important part of the recruiting process. We can’t have our athletes being booed. You don’t see that at other Big 10 schools. If you are a parent of someone considering Rutgers and you hear boos or screaming at the coach, is that the place you want your son or daughter to play? What we have to show is if you come to play a sport for Rutgers, you will be applauded for your efforts, win or lose.
SA: What’s unique about Jersey college sports fans?
PH: Our fans are the most knowledgeable in the country, and part of that is because they are interested in sports at every level, from professional sports to college to high school. What I hope that our sports fans will understand is that while our student athletes are at the college level, and they are going all out to bring success on the playing fields, patience and understanding are important. My job is to continue to make decisions so our fans have a reason to cheer and can be excited about the future of Rutgers athletics.