Rutgers University is known as the birthplace of college football, but in the last few weeks it's seemed more like the deathplace of sportsmanship. On Sept. 7, Rutgers hosted Navy's football team. What respect was shown in the wake of the midshipmen's forthcoming service to the country and the approaching Sept. 11 anniversary? The rowdy student fans of Rutgers hurled obscenities at Navy, thoroughly embarrassing their college and their town.
Rutgers won the game but lost any sense of honor and decency. Navy was booed and peppered with "You suck!" chants when they stepped on the field to start both halves. When Navy kick returner Reggie Campbell came up limping after a tackle, students chanted: "You got f-ed up! You got f-ed up! You got f-ed up!" Toward the end of the second half, Rutgers students began to serenade an adjacent section of Navy fans and uniformed midshipmen: "'F- you, Navy! F- you, Navy! F- you, Navy!'"
Bill Squires, a New Jersey recruiter for Annapolis and a 1975 graduate of the Naval Academy, was appalled by the students, but proud of the Navy midshipmen because they had no reaction. "They took it. They stood tall. They did what they were taught to do. I am not sure, if I was 30 years younger in my white uniform, I wouldn't have reacted differently."
On Sept. 11, Rutgers President Richard McCormick apologized to Naval Academy officials in a letter. "No student-athlete should ever be subject to profane language directed at them from the crowd," he wrote, "and certainly not the young men of the Naval Academy, who have made a commitment to serve our nation in a time of war." That should be obvious to anyone, even college students with a surplus of alcohol in their systems.
It's ironic that the national media would grow outraged when the girls' basketball team at Rutgers was the target of a fleeting, unfunny "nappy-headed hos" line from Don Imus earlier this year, but when Rutgers students demonstrated a more prolonged and more profane disrespect of one of our nation's service academies, there was virtually no media outrage. It was largely swept under the rug.