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Facilities, funding, and growth: Rutgers and some other school

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Got your coffee? Sunday morning talk shows under way? Okay, then, we have something different to throw at you. “Go west, young man”. A 19th Century saying that has some new connotations in terms of D1 athletics. Let us explain.

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Go Lopes!

#LopesRising

So, you know all about GCU, right? Grand Canyon University. No?

GCU was founded in 1949 as a Christian liberal arts college in Phoenix. But in 2004, it was purchased by California-based Significant Education, LLC, and the school became a for profit entity (Nasdaq: LOPE, for those looking for educational investments).

And today? Unlike another Arizona-based school, the University of Phoenix with its grand stadium - well, at least a stadium with its corporate name on it - GCU actually has athletics. It is the first, and only, for profit to participate in Division 1 athletics. According to its website:

GCU President Brian Mueller announced on July 7, 2015 that GCU will be begin a year-long, campus-wide effort to study its athletics program as part of the NCAA Division I Institutional Performance Program (IPP). Specific areas the study will cover are governance and commitment to rules compliance; academic integrity; gender and diversity; and student-athlete well-being.

It is in year four of its transition to D1. Twenty-one sports, but no football. And it even has an NBA-veteran as its hoops coach.

And it is building.

And that’s why we’re here. GCU was in financial distress, causing the sale 12 years ago. And since then, with an influx of private money and tuition, it is ready to step up.

Ten facilities to be built in two years. #GCU10in2

And it is going great guns according to a report earlier this year:

The school is in the middle of a $200 million campus-improvement project that included expanding its basketball arena and building new facilities, both athletic and non-athletic.

But on a larger scale, GCU is in the midst of a $550 million construction boom in the desert. And it makes your eyes widen as you think about Rutgers’ goal of raising only $100 million (actually $75 million after the tax credits) for some new facilities and you say, “How...err, wha....I mean...who are they?”

From a small Baptist college in the desert, GCU has developed a vision today of what it wants to do, where it wants to go, and what it wants to be. From that earlier report:

“We talk about being in the top 25 in all that we do,” GCU President Brian Mueller said. “And we want each one of our athletic programs to aspire to be in the top 25 in the country. And we’re making progress.”

That’s the university president saying we will win; we will be more than just competing. It seems that GCU has a clear focus and everything done there has a goal. Not the least of which, it would seem, is making a profit as a school. Which brings in another question: would you want to play them?

In 2013, the PAC-12 decided that for-profit universities aren’t the kind of folks they want to compete against in sports. The nature of for-profits makes them a different animal from traditional schools that play interscholastic sports, said the west coast schools.

CEOs of all 12 of the [PAC-12] conference’s members wrote to the NCAA’s Board of Directors to express concern about how athletics fit within the academic missions of for-profit institutions. Traditional universities' nonprofit status “ensures” that athletics are integrated into their academic missions, they said, and makes the "success of ... student-athletes" the central measuring stick of how the Pac-12 performs.

Of course, when you’re talking about multi-billion dollar TV contracts, you do start to wonder about the “non-profits’” thinking and motivation.

There is no question, though, that Grand Canyon University has risen quickly. People who work there and know that their “bottom line” is the bottom line apparently know how to get things done. They do it fast and do it well.

Back east, getting things done has become a specialty of DEVCO, the entity that built the new Honors College and is in the process of finishing work on the new Rutgers Academic Building (RAB) as well as The Yard at College Avenue. Rutgers graduate Christopher Paladino runs DEVCO. And he gets things done.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour The Yard and the RAB as workers race - seven days a week - to have both buildings ready for students when September rolls around. To listen to Paladino, you get the sense that the one thing that is needed most to get things done is the will to get it done. And he has that will. Along with the drive, the creativity, and the passion to make it happen for his alma mater.

Pretty much, it seems, the way Grand Canyon University has reinvented itself and created an athletic program that didn’t exist - they never did at a for profit school - and to decide that that program would be successful. The will.

So as we get closer to the beginning of the new school year and football season, think about what RU needs and how it’s going to get it. We are looking for the money to build two facilities and expand a third. Rutgers isn’t a “for profit” institution, but there’s no question that the bottom line, the profit if you will, is what Rutgers needs to be very aware of as it moves forward.

Made that gift to R B1G Build yet?

Coming soon: We take you inside The Yard and the new Rutgers Academic Building