July 21, 2018 | ° F

Sole ambition back RAC expansion

Since Athletic Director Tim Pernetti came out with his plans for the "renaissance of the RAC" I have been trying to decide whether I am for it. As a sports guy and part of the sports media I'm all in — but as a student of the University and a resident of the Garden State, I am in limbo.

As much as I love the idea, I am just not sure of the timing.

When Pernetti first came in, some thought he'd devote much of his time and efforts to football. Not a crazy idea considering he played tight end from 1989-1993 for the Scarlet Knights. Pernetti has shown he's about more than just football and is looking to have successful men's basketball and Olympic sports program.

Pernetti does not need to be all that hands-on with the football program anyway. Head coach Greg Schiano has shown he has got a pretty good handle on the revival of that program.

So without digressing further, I will start with the good.

Despite being an intimidating place to play when the fans want it to be, anyone who has been to the Louis Brown Athletic Center knows it is a dump. I like to call it a glorified high school gym. Obviously it has a media center and more seats along with concessions that outdo any high school gymnasium, but aside from that, it offers nothing special.

You walk in and you see the court. That's about it. There is not much to see aside from the banners in the rafters.

You can have an arena like that and it doesn't matter. Duke University's Cameron Indoor Stadium makes the RAC look state of the art. But the one time that I walked around the Blue Devils' 70-year-old stadium I realized it did not matter at all. Without a game even going on I felt the ambiance. But that came down to the history on that court that has become part of that building.

The RAC just does not have that coming from the men's basketball team — making a run to the National Invitational Tournament Final in the 2003-2004 season for their top moment doesn't do it for me. The 1976 team that went undefeated before falling in the Final Four to Michigan actually played at the Barn due to the RAC opening the next season.

The renovation would include a new scoreboard, and one with a video screen would be nice. A new court would be put in — women's basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer's name should appear somewhere on that court. Club seating along with luxury boxes and dining are also in the plans. When entering the RAC there would also be a retail store and a Hall of Fame area — although the men's basketball team doesn't have much to put in there in from the last two decades.

And the benefits aren't just for the basketball teams and their fans. The plan will benefit 19 of the 24 sports at the University. There will be improvements to locker rooms, training rooms and weight rooms. All important tools when it comes to recruiting. There would also be new coaching offices for many of the sports.

Unfortunately, there is also the bad.

Despite it helping 19 of 24 sports, it is only helping two come game day: the basketball programs.

The women deserve it with two Final Fours in the past decade, including an appearance in the national title game. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is they just do not draw a big enough crowd, which is an issue for women's basketball in general. The only sell outs occur when UConn or Tennessee come to town.

The men have surprisingly had some good fan showings this season despite their struggles. Some of that has been due to opposing team's fans coming, but Pernetti has done a good job with various promotions.

The tough economic times have led to higher ticket sales as well. Despite struggling to make ends meet, people want entertainment. You can't beat two promenade tickets, two hotdogs and two sodas for $20, which is the "Valentine's Couple's Special" for the upcoming Georgetown game.

Aside from the crowds, it is tough to argue that the men deserve upgrades.

They have not made the NCAA tournament since 1991. They have not won an NCAA tournament game since 1980. They have not ranked in the top 25 since 1979, which is the longest active streak for a major college basketball program.

My other issue is where this money going to come from. Pernetti said a lot of the funding would come from private donations from individuals or corporations. Once again, we're in an economic recession and it has affected corporations just like the average citizen.

So I do not see corporations dumping money to put their name in the stadium of a program that is not going to get too much recognition.

As for individuals, that typically comes from two places. Wealthy booster or former players that play professionally.

The donation by two anonymous individuals that led to the construction of the Rutgers Stadium $5 million recruitment lounge were likely from one of the two.

Wealthy boosters wouldn't mind donating to a football program on the rise. Neither would former players that are now in the NFL and have more disposable money than they know what to do with. Why not give Schiano a nice thank you?

Stringer has sent countless players to the WNBA, but they don't get big enough paychecks to fork over a lot of dough. As for the men's side, the last player to make it to the NBA was shooting guard Quincy Douby. Now Douby can't even make an NBA roster.

So I am torn.

The ambition and enthusiasm of the 39-year-old athletic director that has a vision for what he wants for University athletics excites me for the future of this institution's sports program. But I just don't know if the "renaissance of the RAC" is really feasible right now.

And considering how much criticism the football stadium expansion took for a team that has proven they are on the path to success — and not stuck in a ditch on the side of the road like the men's basketball program — I can only imagine the backlash for the renovation.

Matt Sugam is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies.

Matt Sugam

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