Rutgers Roundup: Facilities, Transfers, Big Ten Champions
Welcome to the first ever edition of the Rutgers Roundup, a weekly segment in which we reflect on what happened surrounding Scarlet Knights athletics over the past seven days before acknowledging top performances during the span with our Targum awards.
It's been a busy week in Piscataway, so the inaugural Rutgers Roundup is going to be a doozy. So as not to waste anymore time, let’s dive right into it with…
The Main Event:
Director of Athletics Patrick Hobbs and Deputy Director of Athletics Sarah Baumgartner spoke directly to fans on Facebook Live last Friday, bringing them up to speed on the Rutgers Big Ten Build campaign with updates on facilities for all sports and the man who is putting all the projects together.
The pair introduced Scott Schiamberg as the main architect of the project. A principal at Perkins Eastman, the architecture firm overseeing the facilities overhaul at the University, Schiamberg has over 19 years of experience in the design of large-scale projects, urban design and sport architecture, according to his bio.
He’s worked on arenas and stadia in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, according to his bio.
“We’ve got the best architect in the world,” Hobbs said of Schiamberg.
Here is what they had to say:
- Baumgartner revealed that Rutgers has raised over 71 million of the 100 million dollar over the 14 months since the project was announced.
Of the 71 million, 46 million was raised privately by 2,000 donors while the remaining 25 million came in the form of a tax credit bill signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last January, Baumgartner said.
“(We’ve got) 29 million to go,” Hobbs said. “So if anyone out there has a 29 million dollar gift, we’ll take it.”
Baumgartner said the goal is to reach 10,000 donors, a mark the department is not going to shy away from.
“There is no more powerful word than alignment,” Baumgartner said. “For the first time, and I’ve talked to folks who have been here longer than I have, alignment is finally here and it’s finally here.”
- The group spoke about the Marco Battaglia football practice fields, which are expected to open on August 1st in time for preseason training camp.
It will have a brick wall enclosing it in order to fit in with the historic aesthetic of Busch campus, Schiamberg said. It will have a large videoboard facing towards the corner of Scarlet Knights Way near the Athletes Glen, Hobbs said. Fans will be able to see the videoboard and watch players warm up from outside the stadium, which will participate in the environment of gameday, Schiamberg added.
“This is going to be one of the top facilities in the country,” Schiamberg said. “It’s the same type of grass and level surface that professional teams have. It’ll be top of the Big Ten. It’ll allow the team to help with recruiting, in practice and provide the kind of facility that they need to take it to the next level.
“It will be the envy of the Big Ten,” Hobbs added. “We’re going to make a lot of people saying “woah, this is Rutgers?”
- The locker and weight rooms at the Rutgers Athletic Center are being completely renovated, from the film room to the lockers to the designs on the walls and the lights on the ceiling.
The weight room is expected to be open in April.
“This locker room was probably 15-20 years outdated in terms of where we’re at with our peers,” Baumgartner said.
Among the improvements were the “film room, carpeting, the paint, the lights, the lockers, the cabinets,” she said. She added that it will eventually be used by both the men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling and gymnastics teams.
It will also be renamed after Abe Suydam, a prominent booster, alum and loyal Rutgers athletics supporter who passed in August.
“Those who know basketball know Abe Suydam’s the godfather of (Rutgers) men’s basketball,” Baumgartner said.
- The RAC will see modifications to its exterior, with a new plaza planned in front of it where there will be a place “for (an adidas) spirit store, to have a little coffee shop and to animate the space before basketball games gymnastic events and on a day-to-day basis just to frame out the Livingston campus,” Schiamberg said.
The new concourse will include a large LED screen at the front entrance of the RAC, Hobbs said.
The plaza will be connected to the ground floor of the RWJ-Barnabas Athletic Performance Center, which will have a Hall of Fame and a lobby, according to Schiamberg.
“This is something that when you have Selection Sunday in the near future, the team’s will sit there and that’s where they’ll be on TV to see where their seed will be,” Schiamberg said of the lobby.
As for the inside, Hobbs hinted at a possible expansion in seating and added he’d “love to get the students closer to the court.”
“We want to make this hell for the visiting team,” Hobbs said. “We want that noise where (the opponent has) to use hand signals, they can’t talk to each other.”
- RWJ-Barnabas Health Athletic Performance Center will include “the latest state-of-the-art facilities, locker rooms, training facilities, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, nutrition, all kinds of spaces the student athletes, the coaches, the trainers all need in order for Rutgers to transform in the future,” according to Schiamberg.
It will include the RWJ-Barnabas sports medicine center, which Schiamberg said only a few teams in the country have, name dropping the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Cowboys. He said coaches are very involved in the design and contents of the building.
“This is catered specifically for Rutgers,” Schiamberg said. “We work closely with all the coaches ... so that they need everything is provided in the facility.”
- A groundbreaking ceremony for a planned lacrosse/soccer training complex, which will be located inside the Miller Family Soccer Complex between High Point Solutions Stadium and Yurcak Field, is “coming soon,” Hobbs said.
Both that facility and the RWJ-Barnabas Health Athletic Performance Center are set to be open by the summer of 2019, with July 18 of that year being the goal date.
- Hobbs said that plans for the resurgence of The Alley, a student tailgating site which was shut down two games into its first season in 2016, are underway.
The plan is to find a site closer to the stadium. Hobbs praised the student leadership he’s been working with on the initiative, but added there is still work to be done on the alcohol policies.
While he didn’t specify much, students may not have to wait until the fall to find out.
“Maybe, maybe, our goal, we would love it, is to try to test it around the spring game,” Hobbs said.
Baumgartner credited the progress over the course of the past year to Hobbs’ leadership.
“The one thing throughout this whole process we’ve done ... is ask the right questions,” she said. “For a long time at Rutgers, we didn’t ask the right question in terms of ‘what do you need?’ … Even I’ve had that question of ‘are we going to get this done?’ due to cost or are we getting the right number, but at the end of the day, Pat, you keep answering the question of ‘let’s do it right.’ We’ve had those really hard moments where this could cost more but in the end of the day … we have a leader that says ‘lets do this the right way.’”
Before the show ended, Hobbs was asked if he’ll make a Twitter account. While Hobbs admitted to lurking on the website with his anonymous account, scrolling through tweets of Rutgers athletics accounts and reading the reaction of the fans, he didn’t make any promises of making an official version. He also didn’t say it won’t happen.
“I’m not a Twitter guy,” Hobbs said. “I get asked that a lot. The problem with Twitter is you could go a little too quickly sometimes with a message … I’ll think about Twitter.”
Out with the old...
The two quarterbacks who fought for the Rutgers starting job as sophomores just two years ago have found the landing spots for their final seasons. Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig will be spending their senior seasons at San Diego State and Tennessee Tech, respectively, as graduate transfers. Barstool Rutgers broke the story on Laviano’s transfer destination Friday night, while NJ Advance Media’s Ryan Dunleavy did the same for Rettig’s decision two days later.
Laviano started 18 consecutive games for the Scarlet Knights after winning the battle against Rettig, but he saw his streak end when he was benched by first-year head coach Chris Ash in favor of Giovanni Rescigno midway through last season. The sophomore would start the remaining seven games, effectively putting an end to Laviano’s career on the Banks.
Rettig was the first of the pair to start a game for the Scarlet Knights, playing the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State in which Laviano was suspended for trying to use a fake ID after curfew. But the former LSU quarterback wouldn’t start another game, playing mop-up duty in four other games in 2015 and going the entire 2016 season without taking a snap.
...in with the new
Miami running back Gus Edwards is headed to Rutgers as a graduate transfer and will be eligible to participate in 2017. Scout.com’s Brian Dohn broke the story.
A former three-star running back out of Tottenville, New York, Edwards ran for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.25 yards per carry during his career with the Hurricanes. Edwards wanted to move back home to be close with his family following the birth of his son for support, according to Scout’s Michael McAlister. McAlister later reported that Miami blocked Edward from transferring to Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two fellow Atlatic Coast Conference members the Hurricanes will face next season.
Edwards chose Rutgers over Oklahoma State, according to Dohn.
“It is a great opportunity to get back home for my last year and be closer to my family,” Edwards told ScarletNation’s Bobby Deren. “I really like where Coach [Chris] Ash has the program heading. Coach [Jerry] Kill is going to come in and do a great job with the offense and I have a great bond with the running backs coach [Lester Erb]. I think I could learn a lot from him. I think I could come in and make an impact.”
Inspired by the off-topic question Daily Targum alum Sam Hellman uses to conclude his podcast (check out the Rutgers Scoutcast on iTunes) and the halftime break that’s a staple of Mark Titus’ most powerful power rankings in college basketball (read his stuff on the Ringer here), I’ll include an off-topic question to mark the halfway point of the Rutgers Roundup.
Considering I wrote this on the day of Justin Bieber’s birthday, it’s only appropriate this week’s question involves the Biebs. So, which Justin Bieber do you prefer — New JB (Purpose and Beyond) or old JB (pre-Purpose)?
And now, onto the Rutgers Rundown Awards...
Team of the Week:
The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team has been on a tear to start the 2017 season.
After earning a top 10 ranking midweek, the Scarlet Knights maintained their perfect record with a dominant 12-5 win over Wagner at High Point Solutions Stadium Tuesday.
Paced by a suffocating defense that allows just 6.5 goals per game — good for fifth in the nation — led by current Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Michael Rexrode, the Knights have impressed on the offensive end as well.
Rutgers ranks 24th in the nation with a 12 goals per game average, a feat made even more impressive considering the talent not at their disposal.
The Knights lost both sophomore Adam Charlambides — a preseason All-American coming off a Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign in which he led the conference with 43 goals — and junior Christian Trasolini, an anchor in midfield who started 46 of his first 47 games on the Banks, scoring 69 goals in the process, to season ending injuries.
The pace will pick up a bit for Rutgers this week as they welcome their first ranked opponent of the season to the Banks in No. 19 Brown on Saturday before hosting No. 18 Stony Brook next week. But for now, the Knights are riding high on their highest ranking under sixth-year head coach Brian Brecht, who has the potential to build on last year’s top-20 finish with his best season yet.
Athlete of the Week:
Izaiah Brown of the Rutgers men’s track and field team saw his career take another step on the climb towards the top of program history last weekend.
That’s because the sophomore sprinter not only defended his Big Ten title in the 400m dash, but he also broke the conference and program record in the race with his time of 45.38 seconds. His time also ranks second nationally in the 2017 indoor track season.
The performance, which earned him a spot in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas, over spring break, also earned him the first weekly Daily Targum Athlete of the Week.
He’ll be joined by teammate Jermaine Griffith at the NCAA Championships. Griffith stood alongside Brown on the podium at the Big Ten Championships in Geneva, Ohio, after finishing third with a personal best time of 46.15 seconds in the same race Brown won.
Brown’s continued success comes months after a tragic house fire in his family’s home in Amsterdam, New York. For the full story, look no further than this excellent piece written by NJ Advance Media’s Keith Sargeant this week.
Quote of the Week:
“No need to bring the players out today. I don’t think you guys (the media) need to hear what they have to say. I spoke for them today and I appreciate you guys letting me speak for them. We didn’t play well enough and we gotta be better than this and they know that and hopefully they’re very disappointed … When they play hard, they’ll be sitting up here. They can talk to you guys, they like talking anyway. I like us doing our talking on the court.”
— Rutgers head men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell on not bringing any players to his postgame press conference for the first time all season after a 79-59 loss to Maryland Tuesday.
What to watch this week:
The biggest slate next week is the aformentioned ranked matchups for the men’s lacrosse team, but it’s not the only thing to watch out for in the next few days.
- The Rutgers men’s basketball team concludes its regular season Saturday against Illinois, which will also serve as Senior Day.
While the game itself is simply to fulfill the schedule, it’s a chance to say goodbye to two seniors playing their final game — walk-on guard Khalil Batie and graduate transfer center C.J. Gettys, a favorite among the student section.
From there, the Knights travel to Washington D.C. for the Big Ten Tournament, where they’re seeded 14th out of 14 teams. Their opponent is still unknown, but between Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State, they’re guaranteed to face a team they’ve seen at least once this season.
- The Rutgers wrestling team begins its postseason this weekend at legendary Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, where 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault looks to defend his title at the Big Ten Championships.
The junior, who is the top seed in his weight class after going 8-0 in Big Ten action this season, is 1 of 10 Scarlet Knights aspiring to win a championship of their own, with a high-enough finish to earn an auto-bid to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis as the bare minimum in their expectations.
Of the 10 wrestlers competing for the No. 12 Knights, six will be taking the mat at the Big Ten Championships for the first time
“These guys know what’s at stake, they know the conference, they know the opponents they’re probably going to face and they know how hard it is over two days, so we haven’t gotten into that,” said head coach Scott Goodale before practice Tuesday when asked if the inexperience changes the preparation. “Our guys are actually pretty good in this tournament atmosphere. We showed that last year, we showed it this year at the Midlands Tournament so it’s business as usual.”
One Last Thing(s):
- The Rutgers women’s basketball team ended its worst season under head coach C. Vivian Stringer with its 11th straight loss Wednesday.
The 61-55 loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in brought the Scarlet Knights’ record to a final tally of 6-24, including a winless 0-15 clip in games away from the RAC. The 20 percent win percentage is the worst in the program’s 43 year history.
With four transfer students and star point guard Tyler Scaife, who redshirted the season due to an undisclosed injury, waiting on the wings, next season is projected to be far better than the nightmare that was 2016-17 for the Knights.
Athletic Director Pat Hobbs said he was working on getting Stringer, who has another year left on her contract, a new 4-year deal last May, but nothing has been reported since. Whether it comes to fruition or not will be a telling sign of Rutgers’ plans for the future of its women’s basketball program.
- The Rutgers baseball team recovered from getting swept in its three-game series at Virginia in which it was outscored 27-9 last weekend with a 9-2 win over Wagner in its home opener Tuesday afternoon.
The Scarlet Knights (2-5) were led by Jawuan Harris, who scored two runs on two hits in five at-bats, as he continued his strong start to his sophomore campaign in the earliest home game in the program’s 147-year history.
The two-sport athlete leads his team in home runs (3), stolen bases (3), runs (10) and slugging percentage (.885). Christian Campbell (1-0) got the win for Rutgers. The Knights return to Virginia this weekend for a three-game series with Old Dominion beginning Friday.
- The Rutgers softball team earned its first win of the season against Boston College last week, but the Scarlet Knights have struggled mightily otherwise, dropping the other eight contests they’ve played so far by a combined score of 63-31.
Rutgers (1-8) returns to action against Lehigh, Fordham and hosts North Carolina State at the Homewood Suites RDU/RTP Invitational in Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend.
- The Rutgers women's lacrosse team had a two-game winning streak far earlier this season than it did last year, when it took the Scarlet Knights until the final two contests of the season to string together a pair of wins, but it came sandwiched in between three losses.
The Scarlet Knights (2-3) head to Philadelphia looking to get back to .500 with a win over Drexel.
The plan is to end the roundup each week with the results of the previous week’s off-topic question and add my own personal opinion afterwards. Because this is the first ever Rutgers roundup, we’ll have to go without it. I promise the send-off will be the most improved part of whatever this is next time.
See you guys (and gals) at the same time next week.
Brian Fonseca is a correspondent for the Daily Targum covering the Rutgers men's basketball team. He can be reached with any comments, questions or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter for updates.
The Rutgers Roundup is a weekly column looking back on the past seven days of action within Scarlet Knights' athletics. For updates on all things Rutgers sports, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.