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The Facilities Master Plan: a groundbreaking and.....then what?

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Circle the date on the calendar: Rutgers' will be breaking ground on its first athletic structure in seven years. And then we wait.

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Are you going to the Ohio State game?  Planning on getting there early?  Well, if you are and you do, there's an additional activity that you may want to take in.

At 1:00 pm on October 24, the ceremony to begin construction of the Fred Hill Baseball and Softball Complex will take place.  The buzz within the baseball and softball community is significant.  Baseball coach Joe Litterio called the facility "a game-changer."  Jay Nelson's softball squad has been doing well without much; for him this also turns the tables. The facility "...puts us closer to being on an even par with the other programs in the Big Ten.  More importantly, it shows to our recruits the commitment of our athletic department to the softball and baseball programs and to the rest of the Olympic sports."

The $3.3 million dollars for the project came from private donations; no state or University funds were used.  And that brings us back to....you know.  Remember the "master plan"?

That plan, revealed back in June, was long on concepts and shot on specifics, like timelines and costs.  There was an estimate made that we were probably looking at a $300 million price tag.  Well, we're now spending $3.3 million, and truthfully the Hill project isn't even a part of the $300 M.

And that's where people start to wonder what's next.  And perhaps more significantly, when?  We're behind everyone else in the B1G when it comes to facilities. Since we're talking baseball, look at Maryland and Michigan....now pick up your jaw and look at Rutgers.

But we're just getting to breaking ground on a practice facility - an obviously needed structure - when others have so much more.

Where does Rutgers stand?  The R Fund, athletics fund raising arm, just issued a new Donor Guide.

The promotional piece points out a number of things, including the new "cost-of-attendance" figure for RU which will be around $1million.  That's a million more than we thought we'd need to spend, but a part of doing business in a Power 5 conference.  It also hits on the need to increase giving.

But as the Donor Guide also states, there were 9,165 donors to athletics in FY 15, which ended June 30.  That's a 14% increase from FY 14.  And the revenue was up 22% from FY 14 to $7.9 million.  But that's barely 10% of the total athletic budget.  By comparison, Penn State had over 21,000 members in the Nittany Lion Club and raised $16.6 million in FY 15.  And while that is just around 14% of PSU's income, they receive nothing in terms of university subsidy/underwriting.  So, Penn State, while getting a good amount from its donors, doesn't need them to step up quite as much as Rutgers does.

Much was made recently about high profile RU donor Jeff Towers, his support of Kyle Flood, and his supposed commitment of millions to athletic facilities.  So far, we haven't heard anything specific about any gifts.  This is a man who clearly has not shied away from publicity.  And he is reported to be a lead donor - or could be - on facilities.  Is he still on board?  Is he waiting for Flood to finish the season and see if he is kept on?  Are there others waiting anxiously and eagerly to write checks?

Every major project that requires fundraising usually goes through a "silent stage" when money is raised "behind the scenes".  With a master plan adopted, Rutgers' development people now have something to show potential donors, and raising big money - the lead gifts - can go on quietly.  Then, as Minnesota just did, you go public with a splash.

Is that where Rutgers is, in a "silent stage" gathering the millions for construction?  Are we button-holing donors, building the rapport, prepping them for the big ask?  Or are we scrambling to find money under the seat cushions?  I'm eagerly waiting to hear what's next after the groundbreaking on October 24. How about you?