Big Issues Require Big Solutions for Rutgers

Rutgers basketball is stuck again in a rut after an 11th straight loss and second straight blowout, but to pile all of the blame on second-year coach Eddie Jordan alone is unfair. How does Rutgers fight its way out of a 24-year NCAA tournament drought? There is no fast fix, and Rutgers needs to think big.

The blowouts are piling up yet again, and Rutgers basketball has not seen an NCAA tournament in the lifetime of its current roster. How can Rutgers turn things around?

Phase one comes in acknowledging the true problem. No, it isn’t the lack of effort in transition defense or the 15 missed free throws last night or even the depleted bench.

It’s way bigger than that.

The last three coaching changes fixed nothing. Another one, after less than two years on the job, only makes things worse.

Prize recruits like Mike Rosario, Gregory Echenique, Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack were not enough to change things. So to bet that Corey Sanders can do so single-handedly next season is dangerous.

Sanders may be the exact player Eddie Jordan needs, but it takes more than one player to rewrite 20 years of gloom.

Rutgers is in the Big Ten now, and the only way to fix this problem is to act like it.

Big problems require big solutions, and that means commitment through facilities.

Facilities means more than what fans see on game day. The RAC game-day product is not the problem. The fans, when given a reason, make a great basketball environment. The upgraded sound system and video boards build in 2013 were a good start, and improve the game-day experience.

It’s not the two-hour basketball game that’s the problem – it’s the other 22 hours that need to be addressed. College basketball takes major commitment off the court, not just from its players, but from the entire community.

President Robert Barchi is dead-set against spending Rutgers money on facilities right now, and has said as much in media interviews after the recent $101.7 million raised for athletics. That means private funding, which although a challenge, is possible.

Rutgers successfully found private funding for its football recruiting lounge and a recent Kyle Flood contract extension. And if NJIT can privately raise $50 million for basketball facilities, then why can’t Rutgers do the same?

The Big Ten Network summed it up best after Rutgers topped Wisconsin when an analyst said, “if you’ve seen their facilities and know their history, you know what an uphill battle Eddie Jordan has.” If you can’t prepare like the rest of the conference, then good luck competing against it long term.

Here are a few issues that no Big Ten basketball team should face.

  • Rutgers has a July skills camp scheduled, but it becomes a tough sell for elite prospects with brutal climate conditions and less-than-impressive overnight lodging. There have been years where Rutgers coaches avoided elite-prospect camps altogether.

  • Without a separate practice facility, good luck getting everyone the practice time they need. Rutgers has had times this year where it can’t practice when needed to because someone else has the court. Other teams often work out on the side during basketball practices.

  • Good luck having a strong film session or impressing a recruit in the locker room with the building’s only weight room clanking away 50 feet above you.

  • The revolving door at athletic director makes fundraising an even larger challenge. After the Tim Pernetti-led plan with Michael Graves died, athletic director Julie Hermann discussed where things stand as a feasibility study with Scarlet Report, and there is a long way to go.

It is Jordan’s job to win games, recruit, develop his players and inspire confidence in the fan base, but he can’t do it alone. It’s time to try something new because the acting Rutgers strategy of “hire, wait three years, melt down, repeat” does not work.

Short-term changes can help on a smaller scale, but long-term commitment is how Rutgers truly takes advantage of what Big Ten basketball can offer.

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