I've been a New Jersey resident for close to two years now. I still can't make heads or tails whatsoever of the geography. When I'm driving some way I've never been, it feels as if I change towns every few minutes.
That's not just my imagination though. NJ has 500+ municipalities packed into a tiny little state. Something about taxes, blah blah. You're not reading this for New Jersey politics.
I bring it up because I went to see the flagship University of New Jersey, which of course cannot be named something like "University of New Jersey" like most other states. Here it is named "Rutgers". I'm pretty sure that Rutgers is in New Brunswick, NJ, but I've also seen Piscataway thrown in there as a location. I'm still confused.
I traveled down at the invitation of Rutgers head coach Jon Maccoll. He's been on the job as head coach since October, and he's been working his butt off. He went a long time without an assistant coach, and had to take over a team in the middle of a season.
Rutgers has some cool stuff for sure. The pool is an older 50m pool, but it definitely gets the job done. Elsewhere there are upgrades everywhere you can see. Rutgers wants its facilities to match up to the B1G conference, which it joined in the great conference scramble several years ago.
I wanted to follow up with Maccoll because he had organized a big, free swim talk/clinic/symposium whatever you want to call it on campus this past spring. Unfortunately I missed out with the event so close to m son's due date.
The idea was just one of the efforts that Maccoll is making to bridge some divides. Rutgers is not getting the best swimmers in New Jersey. There is still plenty of animus about the Men's program getting cut, even if no one involved with the team now was responsible. That's just baggage Maccoll must deal with.
Still, I was struck by the positive attitude of everyone around. No one was feeling sorry for themselves against the big challenge they were up against, both in improving their standing in their home state as well as within the B1G conference.
I met a few swimmers as they worked through a strength and conditioning routine. It looked quite hard, still they found time to all introduce themselves with a smile and an uncommon amount of curiosity.
With the recent addition of Kelsie Saxe, the program is now fully staffed and ready to go. Maccoll spoke to me passionately and positively about what is possible at Rutgers, and there are lot of people (myself included) that would love to see that happen.