The day after the biggest win for the Rutgers men’s basketball program in many years, a stunning, come from behind victory over blood rival Seton Hall, I declared that better days are finally here and that it’s time to sign second year head coach Steve Pikiell to an extension. On Wednesday morning, Ryan Dunleavy of New Jersey Advance Media reported that sources confirmed a contract extension for Pikiell is being formally approved during a Board of Governor’s meeting later this afternoon.
Here are the contract details from the press release:
“From 2018-19 through 2023-24, the contract stipulates a guaranteed compensation of $15.05 million, plus performance bonuses.”
It boils down to a three year, 8.85 million dollar extension. That’s a big time move by Rutgers. James Kratch of NJ Advance Media breaks down the details of the buyout, which is now $5 million through March 2019, as well as how the compensation is spread over the length of the contract here.
Here are quotes from Pat Hobbs & Steve Pikiell:
“Steve is doing a fantastic job and it’s our intent to do everything we can to keep him at Rutgers for a very long time,” said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “There is incredible excitement around our program. We are going to compete with the very best because of Steve’s leadership. Our program could not be in better hands.”
”It’s an honor to be the head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University,” said Pikiell. “I am humbled by the support of President Barchi and Pat Hobbs, as we work together to build our program and write a great chapter in Rutgers history. It is a very exciting time at The State University of New Jersey. My family and I are thrilled to be part of the Scarlet Knight community.”
Making this move now makes sense in my opinion. Despite the recent three game losing streak, including disappointing losses to Stony Brook and Hartford, there is no denying this program is in good hands under Pikiell and the healthiest it has been in many years. His emphasis on the importance of a strong culture above all else is the biggest difference in his tenure from his predecessors of the past two decades.
The state of the program when Pikiell took over in the spring of 2016 was a daunting task and the Rutgers job was generally considered the toughest of any high major in college basketball. There are going to be ups and downs, and there have been, but the positive developments under Pikiell have far outweighed any negative. In less than two years, he has made significant improvements in many areas and the results on the court, while mixed, have shown clear progress. He has assembled a first rate coaching and support staff, as well as recruited at a high level. This team has a legitimate chance to produce the first winning campaign in 12 seasons and also can finish above last place in the Big Ten for the first time in four tries.
Although Rutgers faces a difficult challenge tonight on the road against #4 Michigan State, it’s important to remember the big picture in what is a massive rebuild. Rutgers was also handed an extremely difficult start to the conference schedule, as they will play its third game against a top five team in the first five contests in Big Ten play. There are many winnable games ahead after this recent stretch concludes and a win over Wisconsin last Friday was a sign that this team can be dangerous in a wide open middle and bottom of the conference.
With rumors and speculation in recent months that UConn could potentially go after Pikiell at season’s end, an alum and favorite son of Huskies legend Jim Calhoun, this move should put concerns of that possibility to bed.
Another positive development is that this extension marks big time thinking by the Rutgers administration, perhaps for the first time ever. The proof is that athletic director Pat Hobbs, football coach Chris Ash, Pikiell, and women’s basketball legend C. Vivian Stringer, are all locked up to long term deals. You can read about them here, here, and here. That provides stability to the department and helps drive fundraising efforts with the RFund, as well as being a valuable resource with recruiting. This is great news and is another reason to believe that the future is bright for Rutgers athletics.