Rice Addresses "End of an Era"

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Senior night tomorrow night will not just be a farewell to Dane Miller and Austin Johnson, but the likely final Big East game in the long history of the Louis Brown Athletic Center. With the anticipated "Catholic Seven" split at the end of the year, Rutgers coach Mike Rice addressed the emotional significance of tomorrow's game against Marquette.

PISATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coach Mike Rice was ready to say goodbye to Big East basketball at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, but not necessarily this quickly.

The move to the Big Ten meant the end of an era for Rutgers basketball, but the anticipated "Catholic Seven" split at the end of the academic year moves up that timeframe significantly.

Expected to leave and take the "Big East" brand with it, that makes tomorrow's game against Marquette the final Big East game in the long history of the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

"It means something because of how great of a conference it's been," Rice said. "Even knowing that we haven't been as successful as we probably in this conference, but it is the best basketball conference in the country and it has been for decades."

Like many basketball fans, Rice has teenage memories of skipping school for the Big East tournament. When he took over as head Rutgers basketball coach three years ago, the chance to coach in the Big East held value.

The final Big East game at the RAC, a long-time home for exciting conference games and classic college venue, will be met with emotion from Rice.

"It means a great deal to me being a coach's son and being raised on Big East basketball," Rice said. "My sisters went to Syracuse. I went to Fordham, so I didn't have a chance to play in the Big East but I always was such a fan."

Rice addressed the significance of tomorrow night's game against Marquette with his team yesterday, but he said the message did not have a major impact.

Focused on winning the next game and working in the class room, the historical significance means more to the fans and coaching staff, Rice said.

"It's the last Big East game and that means way more to me and these fans, I'm sure, than it does to these 13 individuals because they really don't see it," Rice said. "They don't see the end of an era or the end of a league and how great the Big East was and how much it meant to college basketball. At one point in time, they may reflect upon it but not right now."

Rutgers (13-14, 4-11) has just 15 Big East wins under Rice, who said he would like more time in the conference and a chance to make more memories.

"I would have liked to go out on a better note," Rice said on the final game at the RAC. "That's for sure. But we have two more games in the conference. Let's try to do something. Let's try to make the most of it and finish strong."

Rutgers is already locked into one of the bottom four spots in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden next week. The 11th seed, Rutgers can lock up that spot with a win over the Golden Eagles or fall as low as 14 before the end of the season with Seton Hall, DePaul and South Florida as possible first-round matchups.


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