Rutgers Athletics and Jersey Mike’s Subs inked a multi-year naming rights agreement for the home of the Rutgers basketball team, the university announced Nov. 3.
The newly named Jersey Mike’s Arena is home to nationally-recognized programs in men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball. It will also host future concerts and events.
“Jersey Mike’s is the perfect partner for Rutgers Athletics,” said Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “Our New Jersey brand extends beyond our borders; it is a state of mind that speaks to our core values of grit and the pursuit of excellence. Jersey Mike’s is an organization also engaged in the relentless pursuit of excellence, so what better partner for the State University of New Jersey?”t
Rutgers and Jersey Mike’s are both New Jersey brands, born and bred, and both have experienced growth and success in recent years.
Rutgers men’s basketball earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 30 years and got a first-round win; and women’s basketball continues to add NCAA Tournament berths to its historic record, advancing to its 26th postseason, including 17th consecutive under the direction of Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer.
In the same time frame, Jersey Mike’s has grown and now ranks seventh on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500. This was the company’s third year on the top 10 list. Jersey Mike’s was originally a sole storefront in Point Pleasant when then 17-year-old employee Peter Cancro purchased it in 1975. He’s since grown the brand into a national franchise, with more than 2,000 locations nationwide.
Through the partnership, Jersey Mike’s will get significant brand exposure through signage in and around the arena, including exterior stadium signage, scoreboard signage, campus directional signage and logo placement on the court. The sub sandwich chain will also receive promotion through a variety of print, digital, radio and television assets.
Additionally, the brand will have national exposure through live television broadcasts of nearly all home men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball matches; and for many of the Scarlet Knights’ sporting events that are streamed online, the Jersey Mike’s brand will be visible.
Van Wagner represented Jersey Mike’s in the negotiations.
In his second address to the University Senate on Sept. 24, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway announced the school’s commitment to a Climate Action Plan and the formation of the Office of Climate Action that will lead the efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
“Achieving these imperative goals will involve everyone in our university community and every aspect – from the day-to-day operations of the institution and our approach to facilities, policy and financial decision-making to Rutgers’ cutting-edge teaching, clinical services and research. Our success will also depend on our continued commitment to and strong relationships with our local communities, and the everyday actions of each one of us,” Holloway said.
The climate action plan was developed by the President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience, a university-wide committee co-chaired by Rutgers climate scientist Bob Kopp and supply chain sustainability expert Kevin Lyons.
The Office of Climate Action will be co-directed by Kopp and Lyons along with Angela Oberg, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and administrative director of the president’s task force, serving as associate director. The office will be housed in the Office of University Strategy.
The plan – the culmination of 21 months of effort – outlines a strategy that will guide Rutgers through the next three decades.
The Climate Action effort will aim to achieve key milestones, including:
Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions associated with the university’s grid electricity purchases, reducing carbon dioxide emissions from on-campus fossil fuel consumption by 20% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting, travel and the supply chain by 30% by 2030.
Eliminating emissions from on-campus fossil fuel combustion and becoming carbon neutral by 2040.
Becoming carbon negative – ensuring Rutgers removes more greenhouse gases than it emits into the atmosphere – by the university’s 275th anniversary in 2041.
“By making climate action – both within the university and more broadly – a key strategic priority, Rutgers has the opportunity to scale our efforts and join research and teaching to national, state and community climate action,” said Kopp.
New Jersey Institute of Technology on Aug. 25 joined seven other universities to create a new regional research hub that will help faculty and students convert federally sponsored research into successful businesses.
Starting in January, the Northeast I-Corps Innovation Hub – funded by a $15 million National Science Foundation grant and led by Princeton University – will provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring and resources to enable researchers to form startup companies that rapidly translate laboratory discoveries into breakthrough products.
Participants will build skills and generate opportunities among researchers from all backgrounds, including those historically underrepresented in entrepreneurship, where NJIT said it excels.
The school has long been part of such transfer in the greater Newark area – as a standalone NSF I-Corps site and through the NJIT VentureLink startup incubation arm – and now brings its expertise to the hub as an affiliate under principal institution Princeton and partner institutions Rutgers University and the University of Delaware.
The other affiliates are Rowan University, Delaware State University, Lehigh University and Temple University.
Under the NSF’s previous arrangement, NJIT had approximately $100,000 per year available for Highlander-trained startup companies, but now that figure can substantially increase.
NJIT will also be able to attract companies from a wider area, and can do even more if the university moves to the partner level in a few years.
Hub advocates noted that fields such as artificial intelligence, computing, energy, health care, material science and robotics are all open for further exploration and that the Northeast region is a prime location for them.
The hub is expected to build on the robust industrial and government relationships of its member institutions to develop partnerships across industries that can leverage university-led federal research.
“Translating research and innovation that will benefit society into market successes through the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems has been a long-term priority in NJIT’s strategic planning,” said Senior Vice Provost for Research and Executive Director of Undergraduate Research and Innovations (URI) Atam Dhawan. “NJIT’s well-established participation in NSF vehicles such as I-Corps and Research Experiences for Undergraduates, as well as the creation of our own intensive innovation programs, such as the URI seed grant and undergraduate summer research programs, among many others, will make NJIT a vital partner in this hub.”
The Rutgers University Board of Governors approved a $4.8 billion budget June 22 that includes a 2.6% increase in tuition and fees for the 2021-2022 academic year, following a tuition freeze and a fees reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that tuition increases are difficult for our students, especially after a challenging year, and we would avoid any increase if the numbers would allow it,” said Mark Angelson, chair of the board of governors, in a prepared statement. “We are committed to providing an affordable, high-quality education, and we urge our students and their families to focus, as we do, on the average net cost to students who receive financial assistance.”
Tuition will increase 2.5% and fees will increase 2.9% for most undergraduate and graduate programs. For the last five academic years, the university averaged a 1.2% increase in tuition and fees, including the 2020-2021 tuition freeze and 15% campus fee reduction.
“This budget allows us to provide what is most important – excellent academic instruction and research opportunities for our students, first-rate patient care and far-reaching public service while keeping cost increases as low as possible following an extremely difficult year unlike any Rutgers has experienced,” President Jonathan Holloway said in a prepared statement.
Tuition and fees account for nearly 29% of university revenues and help fund academic programs and university services such as academic advising, library services, computing services, student health services, counseling and financial aid.
“This is a prudent budget that addresses our fiscal realities. The fact that we are not yet back to the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ – especially with respect to revenues from housing, dining and similar sources – means that we will still have to keep careful controls on discretionary spending throughout the coming fiscal year,” said Michael Gower, executive vice president, chief financial officer and university treasurer, in a prepared statement.
Typical in-state, full-time arts and sciences undergraduate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick will be billed $15,804 in combined tuition and mandatory student fees. At Rutgers University-Newark, tuition and fees for a typical full-time arts and sciences undergraduate is $15,208, and, at Rutgers University-Camden, a typical arts and sciences undergraduate’s tuition and fees is $15,657.
Nearly 80% of students have their bills reduced by federal, state, private or institutional financial aid. The estimated average net price to attend Rutgers-New Brunswick for in-state, first-year students receiving scholarship and grant assistance is 56% of the total cost of attendance. Rutgers-Newark students on average pay 49% of the total cost, and Rutgers-Camden students pay 53% on average.
The 52,000-seat SHI Stadium at Rutgers University in Piscataway is fully reopening this fall with the kick-off game on Sept. 2 against Temple University, the university announced June 16.
“Scarlet Knight fans will experience the sights and sounds that make college football special,” reads the Wednesday announcement. Ticket purchases are already available online, and the first Big Ten in-league game will be against Ohio State University on Oct. 2.
Rutgers is already requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before they return to campus this fall.
“The Marching Scarlet Knights, the Scarlet Walk and tailgating are all long-held traditions in Piscataway that were sidelined in 2020 due to the pandemic that fans can look forward to enjoying again,” the announcement continues.
College sports arenas were largely closed to the public and non-essential personnel during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced capacity across the board.
Institutions of higher education across the state saw their finances crater amid campus closures, which meant loss in revenue from student housing, campus dining, parking fees, campus athletics, and events and conferences. Rutgers said it reported a $73 million loss from athletics, housing, dining and parking.
Wednesday’s announcement comes just two weeks after reduced capacity and facemask restrictions were fully lifted in New Jersey for live venues such as arenas and sports stadiums. That day, June 4, Gov. Phil Murphy also signed a bill formally ending the COVID-19 public health emergency, and with it many business restrictions. Masking requirements are largely lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated patrons will be required to wear face coverings, but short of customers showing their vaccination records, businesses will instead need to rely on their good word.
“If the [New Jersey] Devils had a game on June 4, could they sell out and the answer is yes,” Murphy said. The Devils are based out of the 18,000-seat Prudential Center, an indoor concert and sports stadium in Newark.
The next chapter of Eric LeGrand’s remarkable story is set where it all began, in his hometown of Woodbridge. And in a come-full-circle moment, it takes place in the neighborhood where he lived the first few years of his life.
LeGrand, the former Rutgers University football standout who was paralyzed during an October 2010 game, is planning to open LeGrand Coffee House later this year in downtown Woodbridge.
The idea came to LeGrand during the 2020 summer when he noticed on a group text that most of his friends would send a picture of their coffee each morning. While LeGrand did not have his first cup of coffee until last August – he now sees why people drink it all the time – he has always loved the vibe of cafes and coffeehouses.
“I’ve always been this big cafe guy,” LeGrand said. “I can sit in the cafe relaxing and I just enjoy that.”
During the pandemic, when he had time to reflect and be creative, he was inspired by reading the book, “Shoe Dog,” which details Phil Knight’s journey building Nike into the juggernaut apparel brand it is today. And as LeGrand became more passionate about coffee, he asked why he couldn’t create his own coffee brand, with his own name behind it?
“I want to have my story and my idea bringing unity to the community around it,” LeGrand said. “And this is something that people want and need every day.”
He set out to learn what it would take to turn his vision into a reality. One of his early calls was to Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac. The two have shared a close relationship since LeGrand starred on the football field at Colonia High School.
McCormac has spent the last several years trying to bring his own dream to fruition: a planned redevelopment of Woodbridge’s downtown. The mayor has been all over the state doing his homework on downtowns and transit villages to see what has worked and what has not. He has also spent considerable time and political capital trying to convince Woodbridge residents why this kind of change is good.
“We’re trying to get people to buy into the vision for the downtown,” McCormac explained. “Right now, it’s not acceptable to not have a better downtown business district. It’s just not good enough.”
Woodbridge officials identified 14 zones downtown that would be prime for development and awarded contracts to developers for five of those zones, which are under construction now. So with McCormac trying to drum up public support for these major projects, LeGrand reaching out for advice about starting his own business seemed almost fateful.
As LeGrand put together the concept of LeGrand Coffee House, McCormac introduced him to Prism Capital Partners, who are developing a project just steps away from the Woodbridge train station at Rahway Avenue and Green Street. After some early hesitation from the developers because of his inexperience as a businessman, they were quickly sold on the weight and cache his name carries in Woodbridge.
A deal was soon reached to have LeGrand Coffee House be the first retail tenant of the project, which consists of 232 luxury rentals and 12,000 square feet of street level retail space. “The name Eric LeGrand as the first commercial tenant is absolutely invaluable as we try to promote our plans for downtown Woodbridge,” McCormac said. “There’s nobody better. There’s nobody’s name more recognizable. There’s nobody more respected and well-liked than Eric LeGrand.”
LeGrand is thankful for the support from the mayor. “He’s guided me along the way and just helped me,” LeGrand said. “Whenever I need him, he is just making sure everything is going smoothly. And I know how excited he is to also bring it to the town.” As fate would have it, LeGrand revealed the home he lived in from birth until about four-years-old was cleared as part of the demolition for the redevelopment.
He is eager to give back to Woodbridge for all of the support he received in the aftermath of his injury. “It’s raised me, grew me to the man I am today,” LeGrand said of Woodbridge. “Just give a place where people can go to and get away from their home or their workplace. So, it’s me giving back to the community, as well. Because also I’ll be able to hire people throughout the community, be able to have events throughout the community, and bring unity to the community because that’s what we need right now.”
While LeGrand waits for construction of the brick-and-mortar location to be completed – he believes it will open by August or September – and deals with the isolation caused by the pandemic, he has kept himself busy by flipping the script in how he is building his business. He launched the website, legrandcoffeehouse.com, where he sells coffee mugs and three different type of beans, which are sourced from a single origin for maximum quality.
The move allowed him to get the brand off the ground, building a consumer base across 48 states that can become familiar with the product and the story. “I did the reverse way,” LeGrand explained. “So, I knew I had a name. I knew my story is out there. And now, I can provide the people with the product before the brick-and-mortar is even open.”
LeGrand believes the Coffee House is going to be something special. He feels like it is what he trained for during his time at Rutgers. McCormac agrees and said he thinks it will be the go-to coffee destination in Woodbridge, with the potential to expand to more locations. And he can only imagine the atmosphere during major Rutgers events.
“The first Rutgers home game after this is open is going to be packed with scarlet-colored shirts,” McCormac said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Schiano makes an appearance very soon after Eric opens.”
As for Schiano – the once and current head football coach at Rutges – he is indeed excited for this next step in the story of Eric LeGrand.
Schiano and LeGrand have shared a tight bond since their time at Rutgers, which only grew stronger in the aftermath of LeGrand’s injury. “He is a special individual, and you hear that said about a lot of people over time,” Schiano said. “But here’s a guy, who had a tragic event over 10 years ago, and he every day makes a choice to turn that into a positive and affect other people.”
And as his former player’s story comes full circle, Schiano’s own has been on a parallel track.
LeGrand was outspoken in his support for Schiano to return to Rutgers, which took place in December 2019, following the groundswell of pressure from fans, alumni and boosters. Schiano revealed that LeGrand was also instrumental behind the scenes.
At a moment when negotiations were choppy, a visit and chat in LeGrand’s man cave convinced Coach Schiano that coming back to New Jersey was the right decision. “He’s really important to me,” Schiano said. “I love him quite a bit. And he and his mom, Karen, they’ve become family to us.”
Schiano felt like he had unfinished business at Rutgers. “There is a lot of stuff left to do that we didn’t get done here,” Schiano said. “And I really thought it would be cool to do it with Eric alongside of us.”
And now they will chart the next chapter of their respective journeys, which remain connected, close together in New Jersey.
“I know we’re going to try and help him in any way, just like we would any of our players,” Schiano said. “I think being in the local community is great for everybody in that community. I think Eric will be a unifying factor. I was excited to see him doing this.”
“Our daily motto is unity to the community with a daily cup of believe,” LeGrand said.
Schiano also expects LeGrand to be pumping up Rutgers football at his new establishment. LeGrand remains active and involved with Rutgers, and is an analyst on the Scarlet Knights football radio broadcasts. But COVID-19 has forced him to remain physically distant from the team, which Schiano hopes will change soon.
“Once this thing goes away, I expect him to be around a lot to help me, which I think is going to help him as well,” Schiano said.
Schiano then joked that his former player may be too much of a big shot for him now. “Now that he’s a big businessman, I don’t know what the heck’s going to happen.”
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