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Rutgers Funding & Optimism: Both on the rise

The 2016 fiscal year was a record-setting one for Rutgers Athletics. Is the best yet to come?

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Rutgers Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Money makes the world go ‘round. And it gets things done in athletics, too.

The 2016 fiscal year is closed and Rutgers Athletics set a new fundraising record with $30.3 million in new gifts and pledges. It is a staggering 111% increase from the prior year and an 80.5% increase over the previous best of $16.8 million in 2010.

Athletic Director Pat Hobbs was more than happy to offer thanks and congratulations to those who earned it:

“We are extremely grateful to the many members of the Rutgers community who have enabled this record level of giving,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Patrick Hobbs. “So many supporters have reached to provide our student-athletes the resources for sustained success. The level of engagement facilitated by our development staff under the leadership of Sarah Baumgartner has been tremendous. We will continually work to grow our donor base to empower our programs to win Big Ten championships.”

NJ Advanced Media’s Ryan Dunleavy first broke the story and Rutgers then followed with a press release.

The numbers are certainly bolstered - and inspired - by the start of the R B1G Build campaign, the capital improvement push to build facilities. From Dunleavy:

Of the $30.3 million, 78 percent was earmarked for capital projects -- including Big Ten Build, which already has drawn the three largest single gifts in Rutgers athletics history -- 16 percent for scholarships (women's tennis is now fully funded) and 6 percent for operating support.

Interestingly, in early August, when Ben Bucca stepped down as the tennis coach, we noted in our post that women’s tennis at Rutgers was virtually at the bottom of the Big Ten in coach’s salary and overall budget. With it now being fully funded in terms of scholarships, things are changing.

One of the most significant items noted in the Dunleavy story is that there were 1,393 letterwinners who contributed. Former AD Julie Hermann created quite a stir when she complained publicly that letterwinners - in essence students who got great benefit out of being a Rutgers athlete - were not giving back. And she particularly pointed out those who played in the revenue sports. If that was the case, it is going in a different direction now. And it is reinforced by this point from the pressrelease:

Earlier this month, Varsity R, Rutgers Athletics’ all-sport letterwinners association, released its new membership and benefits program. The initiative is designed to help establish a foundation of support to carry on the Rutgers legacy as well as align letterwinner experiences with that of their Big Ten peers.

Getting former athletes on board - as well as changing the general thinking of a lot fans (you need to give in order to get) - will be a key factor in any success Rutgers has down the line.