What started back in an October as an urging from Rutgers hoops supporters, has started to boil into a much bigger story. After friend of Rutgers, Steve Politi, caught with of Julie Hermann's speech to the Court Club, a buzz started to build.
There was no vision offered, let alone blueprints, and Hermann made it clear none was coming any time soon. Rutgers won't get its full piece of the Big Ten revenue pie for another five years, and even when it does, Hermann made it clear that there are priorities more important than fixing the outrageously outdated basketball facilities. It could be 10 years before those are finally addressed. Ten years!
Things were bleak. Rutgers had suffered another blowout loss, and it was clear the team and the program were falling further and further behind. While Rutgers football got the investment it needed when it was suffering, Rutgers basketball died on the vine--to the point where Mike Rice almost destroyed the program.
But, with the Big Ten investment looming, there was some hope that the RAC would be the first item checked off the list. However, the word from administration has been mostly quiet. However, Politi's article got people talking. From the message boards to Twitter, it was clear most Rutgers fans had had enough of the losing and enough of the program being the third--hell even fourth--thought. People wanted change... including a state poltiician.
Ray Lesniak of Union tweeted after reading the Politi piece.
The Lesniak tweeted continued the firestorm, and fans started to reach out to him. Lesniak replied with variation about Rutgers president Robert Barchi being afraid to invest in basketball and being afraid of Chris Christie.
"To me, it goes beyond Rutgers athletics. It goes to the integrity of the presidency. It starts with Gov. Christie giving Barchi orders to fire (former Rutgers athletic director) Tim Pernetti, and I think that was the start of a lack of planning for the future of Rutgers athletics. What I've seen so far is really just the result of the work (for) the football program. With regards to the basketball program, there just hasn't been any planning. There's been no announcement of what the plan would be to make the basketball program Big Ten-ready. And obviously, it means facilities because where you're going with facilities has an impact on your ability to recruit top-notch players.
"When you have a program like the basketball program that's struggling ... (Duke coach) Mike Krzyzewski wouldn't be able to attract the best players coming out of New Jersey under those circumstances. There's no plan in place to make the basketball program Big Ten-ready.''
Meanwhile, Sargeant also got a statement from Hermann (who gave Eddie Jordan a vote of confidence) and a spokesman for Robert Barchi (who said that the president was aware of the challenges Rutgers faces in Big Ten athletics).
Where does it go from here?
That's the interesting part. It feels like we are at a turning point in Rutgers basketball history--sort of standing on the edge of the cliff. Rutgers can go either way. The Scarlet Knight faithful have to continue to let administration know that they desire basketball change, that they're willing to play their part going forward. If NJIT can raise half the money toward a facility and then use public funding for the rest, Rutgers needs to find a way to do so as well.
The Scarlet Knight administration needs to get creative and get this rolling sooner rather than later. Ten years toward solvency is too long to wait. What changes can happen over ten years? What will other sports need in that time?
The time to invest is now. Find a way to do it. Help Eddie Jordan and the recruiting wars out. The reporters at the Ledger got the ball rolling.
And now even an NJ politician is on Rutgers' side.
As a wise Rutgers man once said, it's R time.
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