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New Jersey hoops in turmoil

I was very much planning on emphasizing how economic factors played an overriding role in Rutgers deciding to retain Coach Hill, but then Jerry Carino pretty much beat me to the punch. At this point, it's fair to infer from the delay in this announcement this was by no means an easy decision.

Sources close to the program say the decision was driven largely by finances. If Pernetti cut the cord Rutgers would owe a $1.56 million buyout to Hill, whose contract has three years remaining—one on the original deal plus a two-year extension proffered by former athletics director Bob Mulcahy after Hill’s second season.

With the state facing an economic crisis and Rutgers girding for cutbacks across the board, swallowing Hill’s buyout would have been fiscally painful and a tough sell politically to those outside of the fan base, sources said.

Actually, that's sharper than even I would have gone. It's hard to emphasize enough how entrenched Hill truly is at all levels at Rutgers. If he won, he'd be as set as Schiano is. I don't buy the facilities argument (to the extent that upgrades are a necessary requirement for success), but plenty of others do.

Now, it's hard to criticize Tim Pernetti and the athletic department that much considering the level of cuts in Gov. Christie's proposed budget.

Direct state aid in the next school year would drop by 15.1 percent, and in real dollers would be the smallest amount of aid since 1994, according to university President Richard L. McCormick.

I'll save further commentary on that for a later post. However, it should be clear now why this blog spends so much time covering issues that only seem tangentially related to athletics on the surface. What happens to Rutgers University as a whole has a large impact on its athletic programs, and vice versa. Only a fool would claim otherwise.

Hill's promising .500 in the Big East next year. All the well wishes in the world to him, but a bottom four finish in conference is probably once again in the cards. I understand why he's coming back, but my inclination is that this will more than likely prove a mistake in the long run. Rutgers athletics will take more of a hit, financial and otherwise, for keeping Hill on a fifth year. Hence, they chose the path of least resistance. This reasoning is as short sighted as the continuing drastic cuts in state aid to higher ed over the past two decades, and it's a sad commentary that those sorts of decisions have to come to pass.

If that news wasn't monumental enough, this all was actually overshadowed by Seton Hall surprisingly canning Bobby Gonzalez, who's out the door with a rather small buyout. Yep, Rutgers is officially somehow the most stable metro hoops program. Even with the never ending drama surrounding that program, no one could have seen that Hill would be the last one standing. Rutgers and Seton Hall have been linked together in five year coaching cycles for a while now. It'll certainly create a lot more pressure on our side if they do make a good hire like McCaffery.

A short list emerges, courtesy of sources in the know. Here are the five: Hofstra’s T0m Pecora, former Providence coach Tim Welsh, Siena coach Fran McCaffrey, Kansas assistant Joe Dooley and Duke assistant Chris Collins.

What, no Tim O'Shea? McCaffery is the only name on that list who remotely scares me. The other four could be very bad news for a program that's seemingly been on the brink for some time now.

As a final thought, I totally understand that Gonzalez is a big jerk, to put it lightly. Fred Hill is by all accounts, a decent guy, which I've been saying for quite some time. In fact, his impact in that regard in cleaning up Rutgers basketball has nearly been as large as what Norm Roberts is credited for at St. John's. I don't really care much though for the argument that Gonzo deserved to go, and Fred Hill stay, because of their respective personalities.

One of the biggest reasons why Hill landed the Rutgers job in the first place was because he is so personable. I like him a lot too. That doesn't change his inability to be an effective head coach. The media clearly does show favoritism towards coaches like Hill and Pecora, far more than they warrant on the merits of their respective abilities.