When the idea of the culture of a program comes to mind, there are many different definitions that pop into one’s head. 

That is what makes the word so unique. Different organizations, teams and communities have various ideas on what they want their culture to look like. It can be defined by teamwork, academic excellence, caring for one another, or results among the hundreds if not thousands of different ways culture can be implemented. 

Sports programs at the University of Rhode Island that have a defined culture have seen success. Sometimes that success can be immediate, like for Tammi Reiss and the women’s basketball team. The new coach has spoken since the first day about the culture of doing the little things right, being a good teammate and setting a great example for yourself since she arrived in Rhode Island last April. 

While she tried to bring in recruits with her from Syracuse who understood that culture on the court, their waiver denials by the NCAA have forced the culture to be implemented on players from last year’s team. They were in a program that led the NCAA in technical fouls last year; not exactly ideal culture conditions. 

The overhaul has been there already for the team on the court. URI has a winning record on the season so far, with smiles and joy during basketball games that were not seen in the last few seasons.

Other times, the success can take time. Dan Hurley brought bravado and swagger when the university hired him as the head basketball coach of the men’s team in 2012, yet they only won eight games total. It took until year five for the Rams to cut down the nets in Brooklyn, and the year after to win the Atlantic 10 regular season. 

URI football completed their season last month, finishing with a 2-9 record that goes down as a disappointing season. A season-ending loss to James Madison by a score of 55-21 isn’t a terrible thing when you look at the success of the Dukes this past decade, but the main thing heading into the offseason is this: What exactly is Rhode Island football?

Is it a program that seemed to turn the corner the season before when they finished 6-5 and was a meltdown at home to Maine from being in the FCS playoffs? Or is it more akin to this year’s team that finished with a losing record for the 17th time in 18 seasons? 

Throwing away the record, the coaching staff certainly did have the players ready for the season. Heartbreaking losses to Delaware, New Hampshire and Stony Brook are not easy to rebound from, and the Colonial is not a cupcake FCS conference. 

Yet the nature of the late-season losses need to be addressed if the team wants to bounce back next fall. Their last four losses were by an average of 24.75 points a game, and that even includes a four-point loss away to Maine. Experimenting late in a lost season is acceptable, but losing by four scores consistently shouldn’t be. 

Now nobody deserves to lose their job right now as a result of the season that unfolded. After all, it was this very coaching staff that got URI a winning record last season with an injury to their starting quarterback along the way. Plus, a $4 million renovation that included turf and lights is hopefully just the start of a Meade Stadium upgrade that will lead to more recruits and success. 

As the team looks forward to next season though, Rhody needs to answer the question of who they really are to avoid the answer of a losing culture.