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Clean slate gives Rutgers chance at redemption


NOVEMBER 30, 2015    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015, 12:37 AM

The first six words of Robert Barchi’s open letter to the Rutgers University community were probably the only ones we really needed to hear Sunday, revealing action that has not simply been a long time coming, but a long time needed.

“Today is a day of change,” Barchi wrote, the preamble to a seven-paragraph explanation of his decision to fire both Athletic Director Julie Hermann and football coach Kyle Flood. The Rutgers president also announced Pat Hobbs as the immediate replacement for Hermann, moving the former Seton Hall law school dean and short-term Pirates athletic director from an interim solution to a permanent one in the same day.

Barchi’s swift action comes in the wake of a losing season on the football field and an embarrassing one off it, and represents the first important step toward fixing an athletic department that has floundered as the stubborn president continued to back the ineffective reign of Hermann. By finally owning up to the mistake his search committee made two years ago, Barchi has a new opportunity to fill the leadership profile the athletic arm of the school so desperately needs.

“It was appropriate to start fresh, wipe the slate clean and move Rutgers forward,” Barchi said in an evening conference call with a small group of reporters.

What happens from this point forward will go a long way in determining whether Barchi can change the public perception of his disdain for athletics in general, a story he hopes will begin to change under Hobbs’ direction. That Hobbs comes to the job directly from the office of Governor Christie, where he served as ombudsman, sure makes this feel like a move with a Trenton stamp of approval.

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UConn’s success envied around nation, especially in N.J.

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UConn’s success envied around nation, especially in N.J.

APRIL 8, 2014, 10:55 PM    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2014, 12:48 AM

This was before the opening tipoff, before her Connecticut women’s basketball team routed Notre Dame for a second consecutive national championship, before Stefanie Dolson helped turn Storrs, Conn., into the college basketball’s epicenter. Dolson, a senior center who would go out and dismantle the Fighting Irish with 17 points and 16 rebounds, was asked if she’d heard any words of advice from the previous night’s national champions, otherwise known as her male counterparts back at UConn.

Dolson said she and her teammates had received texts from the men’s players that said, “One more game to go – you got this.”

That they did.

For the second night in a row, a Connecticut team outran, out-jumped and out-hustled the opposition; and for the second night in a row, Connecticut was the last college basketball team standing, finishing off a male-female double-double championship for the second time in school history.

The school that was supposed to be left behind is on top of the world.

With a wire-to-wire 79-58 win over previously undefeated Notre Dame in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday night, the Connecticut women didn’t simply finish off a perfect 40-0 season, but improved to 9-0 in national title games under head coach Geno Auriemma. One night earlier, the UConn men’s team defeated Kentucky, winning its second national title in four years, and fourth overall.

Between second-year coach Kevin Ollie and predecessor Jim Calhoun, the men’s team is also perfect in four championship games.

Connecticut’s position among the country’s elite athletic programs is indisputable, a testament to a long, sustained and successful building project that is the envy of schools across the land.

Nowhere is that shade of green deeper than amid the sea of Rutgers red, where a floundering department feels so far away from the superior level Connecticut projected to the world across a dominant month of March.

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