Patrick E. Hobbs is named the new athletic director at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
On his second day as the athletic director at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Patrick E. Hobbs pulled into the parking lot of the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on the Livingston Campus and found that someone was in his reserved parking space. He walked up and noticed that the backseat of the car, which most likely belonged to a representative from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was piled high with Bibles. Hobbs wondered whether he might benefit from two or three of them. Starting a big new job, he joked to himself, he was going to need all the wisdom he could find.
In November, Hobbs was named to lead the athletics department at Rutgers–New Brunswick, which this spring concludes its second season in the very competitive Big Ten athletic conference. With a mix of executive positions to his name, including overseeing the sports program at Seton Hall University, his alma mater, Hobbs quickly emerged as the right person for the job.
In preliminary meetings with president Robert Barchi before his appointment, the two men discussed the growing ambition of Rutgers as the state’s comprehensive research university—and, later, the appropriate role of athletics within it. Hobbs, a native of New Jersey, has long been well aware of the frequent accolades bestowed on Rutgers faculty and alumni. “In talking to Dr. Barchi,” says Hobbs, “I conveyed my unique combination of academic and athletics experience. Dr. Barchi sees me as somebody who can bridge those worlds.”
Within days of taking the reins, Hobbs made a splash with his first executive decision, selecting Chris Ash, a highly regarded co-defensive coordinator for The Ohio State University football team, to be the head coach of the Scarlet Knights football team. (See related story.) Hobbs has since been attending one event after another to say hello to prominent alumni and boosters. He has also been meeting with the coaches of the 24 sports programs under his purview, the people on whom he will depend to bring winners to Rutgers while providing student-athletes an indelible academic and athletic experience.
“When it is working right,” says Hobbs, “student-athletes come to our university; we cheer them on for their successes on the field as they get a great education; and they give back once they graduate. There is no reason why athletics can’t be a tremendous complement to the mission of the university, something that adds to the reputation of Rutgers.”
In another dramatic move, Hobbs announced in January an ambitious plan—“R Big Ten Build”—to raise $100 million to construct and renovate facilities. The news came just one day after the New Jersey Legislature approved $25 million in economic redevelopment growth tax credits for the initiative. The first order of business, he says, is a much-needed multisport training and practice facility adjacent to the RAC, which itself will undergo a facelift. (Other immediate plans call for upgrades to the Hale Center at High Point Solutions Stadium and Yurcak Field.) Hobbs says that Rutgers, already late to the dance, can’t effectively recruit promising student-athletes without this centerpiece, which will require private funding. To that end, Hobbs, Ash, and Scarlet Knights men’s basketball head coach Eddie Jordan kicked in $50,000 each in a video appeal that Hobbs emailed to 190,000 alumni and Rutgers supporters to participate in the effort. (Learn more at RutgersBigTenBuild.com.)
“It’s not just a multisport practice and training facility with lots of courts, coaches’ offices, and locker rooms,” says Hobbs. “It’s an announcement that Rutgers is going to be competitive across all of our sports in the Big Ten.”
As the leader of the athletics department, he embraces being the public face of Rutgers athletics, a role in which he is evidently quite comfortable: during a basketball game between the Scarlet Knights and Wake Forest at the RAC in late November, his image appeared on the large video screen as he was introduced to the audience, which erupted over his big smile and fist pump of enthusiasm (although his former Seton Hall colleagues, he jokes, are troubled by the sight of him in red ties).
“I want to see improvement every day,” says Hobbs, the father of three children in their 20s. “I am going to wake up every morning and ask myself a simple question: ‘Will the things that I am about to do today advance Rutgers athletics?’ If so, we will start to accomplish the big tasks.”
Hobbs is no stranger to challenges. A native of Maplewood, New Jersey, he received his undergraduate degree from Seton Hall University in 1982, law degree from the University of North Carolina in 1985, and master of laws degree from New York University in 1988. Hobbs joined Seton Hall’s law school faculty in 1990 and was its dean by 1999, proving to be an effective fundraiser as the law school’s academic reputation soared. From 2009 to 2011, Hobbs temporarily managed Seton Hall’s athletics department during a turbulent time at the university, replacing the men’s and women’s basketball coaches and the athletic director while balancing the department’s budget.
Outside of higher education, Hobbs led a commission that approved the plan to build Newark’s Prudential Center. From 2004 until 2014, he was the commissioner of the State Commission of Investigation, the agency that investigates corruption and waste. Most recently, Hobbs was an ombudsman for New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Now, Hobbs is pursuing his first love: sports. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity,” says Hobbs, an avid golfer who bears the understated self- confidence of an athlete. “I am more excited today than when I started talking about the job with Dr. Barchi. It’s all I have been thinking about.”
After two weeks of nonstop activity in his new job, Hobbs finally found time to go to the ShopRite near his Basking Ridge, New Jersey, home. He came out an hour later to find his keys in the ignition and the car still running. He shook his head and smiled to himself. Yes, he’s been a little preoccupied lately with thoughts of Rutgers. •