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Rutgers Basketball: Would a New Practice Facility or Arena Turn Program Around?

Rutgers is better off showing a commitment to basketball by paying a coach, not for a practice facility.




Mercifully, the Rutgers basketball season ended with last night’s hard-fought, but ultimately fruitless effort against fellow Big Ten bottom-feeder Minnesota in the Big Ten basketball tournament at Chicago’s United Center.

Once again, the Scarlet Knights will pack their lockers up before mid-March and watch March Madness on the couch along with the rest of us.

The latest battle cry from the embattled fan-base is for a practice facility.  Some believe it is the main factor holding Rutgers back from competing with the rest of the nation in basketball.

Rutgers is arguably the nation’s worst power conference basketball program and a lack of a practice season is a reason why, but is it the reason why?

As recently as November, Rutgers AD Julie Hermann stated that getting a practice facility was “a priority”, but since then, has softened her stance which angers the part of the fan-base who are crying for an arena and/or practice facility.

However, the question no one can answer is where is the money coming from?  And if you are a resident in New Jersey, you know the state motto ought to be altered to “the Budget Cut State” rather than “The Garden State”.

No one wants to pay for it least of all Johnny and Jill Taxpayer.   Especially when you consider that this is a university that has seen cuts to academia and athletics including the loss of six sports in 2006 including men’s crew – think about that.  The U.’s fight song is about rowing upstream and there is no rowing team.

I know, the idea is better basketball team equals more profits for the university which would mean more “spreading’ around money” but would the practice facility guarantee results?  It may, but then again, it may not.

Rutgers supporters have cited NJIT as an example of a school “taking basketball seriously” and building a new facility.  Another example is the University of Central Florida who undertook the construction of a new facility for basketball with a creative “public-private initiative” that RU supporters are looking toward as a possible model – they finished this season at 12-18.

However, the news is not all bad for Rutgers basketball.

Rutgers women’s basketball under the direction of C. Vivian Stringer is a consistent winner.  Having made two final four appearances along with expectations of an NCAA tourney bid every year, Stringer has made it work with run down facilities and lack of “commitment” to basketball by the university.

No naked free throws, no throwing basketballs at players, no curse-laden tirades at Rutgers baseball games (yes baseball, not basketball) – just young women who graduate and win basketball games.

Last season’s WNIT champion Scarlet Knights had a “disappointing season” finishing with over 20 wins and are poised to make the NCAA tournament when the seedings are announced next week.

Many supporters believe Stringer is overpaid making a base salary of 800,000 dollars a year with incentives that could make each year worth $1 million.  They cite examples like UNC’s Sylvia Hatchett who makes just $325,000 a year while leading the Lady Tar Heels to perennial top 10 finishes who has a national championship under her belt – Stringer does not unless you count last season’s WNIT.

However, if you consider the following, Stringer is a bargain.  A new basketball facility would cost upwards of $30 million dollars according to State Senator Raymond Lesniak.

1 million, or 30 million?  That is the question.

And again, a new facility may not even make the difference.  Rutgers is better off showing a commitment to basketball by paying a coach, not for a practice facility.



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