Their head coach has improved.
Their team has improved.
Even their reputation has improved.
Now, it’s time for their facilities to do the same thing. Unfortunately, there won’t be any improvement to their gameday venue, but there will be a new practice facility on the way.
On April 6th, the Rutgers Board of Governors put the final stamp of approval on new practice digs for several Rutgers Athletics. It is all a part of the R B1G Build, an initiative put forth to legitimize athletic facilities as the school transitions into the Big Ten.
According to the R B1G Build website, the new multi-sport practice building will cater to both men’s and women’s basketball, as well as wrestling and gymnastics. Among other things; the new facility will feature state-of-the-art locker rooms, suites, and coaches offices, plus a four-story parking structure.
The new building will be known as the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center.
Judging from the pictures, the school plans to go all out on the new venue. Despite all the excitement, money has been a constant conversation during the process. Actually, a lack of money has been the conversation.
The current budget for the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center is $115 million. However, the project was pushed through without actually having the full amount in hand. At the time the green light was given, the R B1G Build fund was nearly $45 million short of the full budget. Now, there is still time remaining to get all the money together, but the last thing they want to do is have to borrow.
Per On The Banks, the new facility is on a two-year timeline.
In the days following the announcement, Rutgers fanbase stepped up in a big way to get the ball rolling financially. With some help from Twitter, RVision’s Jon Newman organized a 24-hour campaign that brought in nearly a half-million dollars. In fact, the event picked up so much steam that it inspired Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs to unleash his first-ever barrage of tweets.
When all was said and done, 245 donors made pledges for the first time. I sent $1.00, some people sent $100,000. The main thing is that people care about the program and want to see Rutgers succeed.
You can still donate to the cause through Newman here.
Why Is It So Important?
Some people at Rutgers opposed the new practice facility. I don’t know them personally, but I assume these are people who either don’t care about athletics or don’t understand what it means to be a new team in the Big Ten.
Before joining the Big Ten, Rutgers came from a conference that was heavy on basketball and light on football. In their 18-season tenure with the Big East, the basketball team consistently finished in the bottom half of the league and never made an NCAA Tournament appearance.
On the gridiron, however, they made a name for themselves and were a legitimate East Coast powerhouse. I know it’s hard for Big Ten fans to comprehend that, but it’s true. Rutgers ran through their weak conference schedule — beating the USF’s and UConn’s of the world — en route to seven bowl game appearances in an eight-year stretch (2005-2012).
Well, to the victor go the spoils.
Only three years after ending their 26-year bowl drought, the school went and poured a ton of money into upgrading the football stadium. They added over 12,000 seats, legitimizing the program in the process. Unfortunately, the basketball program was left out in the cold.
Overdue or not, the school is now finally making basketball a priority. The table is set for success, all that’s missing is the steak. They have the right coach in place and the right attitude. Now, they just need the talent.
Let’s try something.
Imagine your a 17 or 18 year-old basketball recruit coming in for a visit at Rutgers.
You’re not going to be blown away by their history. You’re not going to be blown away by their 8,000-seat arena. And you may bail on the idea completely when they tell you that you’re going to practice on the same court you play games on. After all, you just came back from a visit to VCU and they had amenities galore.
Sorry Coach Pikiell, I’ve got to cut this visit short.
Now, imagine Coach Pikiell has the option to walk you through a shiny new practice facility before you go and check out ‘the RAC’. There’s flat-screen televisions everywhere, plush couches, cozy recliners, and a brand-new personalized Adidas jersey hanging inside the flawless locker room. The coaching staff then walks you down to the practice court. There’s 10 guys in the middle of an open run and the sneakers are squeaking. You glance at the wall for a moment. All you see on one side is banners, the current player’s faces blown up in high-definition print. On the other side, the banners are sparse, the last NCAA Tournament appearance coming over 20 years ago. Coach Pikiell points to each side and tells you that you can be a part of both walls. In that moment, you want to be a Scarlet Knight...
There we have it. We just landed a big-time recruit solely because of the new practice facility.
If the picture I painted was confusing, I’ve mastered an equation to sum things up.
New Facilities = Better Recruits = More Wins = NCAA Tournament
That is why this is such a big deal for Rutgers. Kids coming out of high school love ‘swag’ — the gear, the facilities, and the social media attention. All have become a big part of getting players to commit and the only place Rutgers severely lacks is in the facility department.
Another important angle is how the improvements will benefit the Big Ten as a whole. East Coast expansion is real and isn’t going anywhere. Rutgers brings Madison Square Garden to the table, as well as the untapped alumni base in New York City. The only hiccup is that it’s a package deal most of the time. If you want to hold an event at MSG, the Scarlet Knights are going to be featured. However, if you put them up against a top team, it’s a difficult sell because people fear a blowout. But, If they get better players and become competitive across the board, that’s a much easier product to sell and a much bigger bottom line.
Overall, getting this project off the ground is nice, but it won’t solve all of Rutgers’ problems. Any sort of ‘ribbon cutting’ is still a few years away, so in the meantime they’ll need to continue their on-court B1G Build.