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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Apr 17, 2007 12:00 am
Don Imus isn't the first to raise a ruckus with his words concerning Rutgers University, though he has stirred up, by far, the most dander.
Rutgers' football team came to Tennessee early in Johnny Majors' tenure as Vols' coach for homecoming. The morning of the game, a Knoxville newspaper opened a story [either in the headline or the lead] by posing this question: What is a Rutgers?
The Vols found out that afternoon as the Scarlet Knights upset Tennessee. Majors has blamed that newspaper story in part for the loss ever since.
Rutgers sounds like a Jesuit school from the Northeast with a basketball team. It's actually the State University of New Jersey named for a benefactor, Revolutionary War hero Col. Henry Rutgers. It also played in the first college football game in 1869.
Lou Holtz, during a broadcasting stint between coaching jobs, once suggested the school name itself the University of New Jersey in an effort to keep more of its rich football talent would stay home instead of going out of state to play.
Enough of that talent stayed home without the name change for the Scarlet Knights to contend for a BCS bowl last fall. Its women's basketball team has been a Big East power for years, though it's had to play second fiddle to UConn in the Big East for most of that time.
But Rutgers became a team to be wary of last month as the Knights upset Duke and then embarrassed LSU in the Final Four.
Their magical run ended against Tennessee as the Lady Vols got that 9-year-old monkey off their backs and handed Pat Summitt her seventh championship.
But just when the Lady Vols should have begun basking in their glory, Imus stuck his foot in his mouth and, despite his repeated apologies, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson spent the next week shoving it further and further down his throat until CBS fired the longtime controversial radio host a couple of days ago [Guess that Pacman Jones appearance on "Imus In the Morning" is off].
What began as a feeble attempt at humor by Imus has grown into something much bigger than he or Rutgers. But that's something to be discussed when this Page 4 reverts to becoming the editorial page the other five days we publish.
Getting back to Rutgers, the classy way Coach C. Vivian Stringer and her players have reacted has drawn more positive attention to the team and the school than they ever would have received without Imus. Unlike others who have used the situation for their own political agenda, Stringer and her players didn't call for Imus' ouster. They wanted to meet with him and vent, which they did Friday and accepted his apology.
I saw Rutgers play the Lady Vols in an NCAA tournament game at Vanderbilt years ago and you could tell, even from the cheap seats, Stringer exuded grace and class. It's obvious those traits extend to her team.
An argument could be made, and one of the Knights did just that on "Oprah", that the team Imus' comments hurt just as much was Tennessee. His comments weren't targeted at the Lady Vols, but the champions have been all but ignored in the controversy. I'm told one radio talk-show host referred to Rutgers as the national champs.
But the Lady Vols weren't called "nappy-headed hos". The Knights were and the way they reacted, restrained but leaving no doubt they were hurt by the term, has won them many fans and admirers from across the country.
What is a Rutgers?
A school with an outstanding women's basketball team, on and off the court.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.