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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rutgers' Big Ten profile grows, but what will it look like in a decade?

(AP photo)
By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY — A head coach with a recently extended contract and $3.4 million in new money. A stadium expansion that revamped the south end zone. A promising training facility.

It all adds up to valuable Big Ten currency for Rutgers, but it's also a reminder of the yearly demands to keep up.

"It only gives you a chance. We just did all those renovations in the, what, last four years," said linebackers coach Bob Fraser, who arrived at Rutgers in 1987 as a graduate assistant. "I think it’s beautiful. But Ohio State just did renovations this year. I think I read Michigan just did renovations. We just did them, too."

Fraser, more than anyone, possesses the insight into how far Rutgers has come as an appealing brand. 

When he first came to Piscataway, Rutgers was still playing games at Giants Stadium. Few of its current amenities — a modern recruiting lounge, luxury boxes, among them — existed.

Still, it is a reminder of the arms race that permeates big-time college football, which officially begins tonight as Penn State visits Rutgers in both teams' Big Ten openers.

As of last season, Rutgers' 52,000-seat-plus High Point Solutions Stadium has a larger capacity than three Big Ten facilities. 

Its coaching salaries, which improved with the hires of coordinators Ralph Friedgen and Joe Rossi, combined with Kyle Flood's extension, are still relatively low.

Profit windfalls from Big Ten affiliation could eventually balloon those numbers, among others in Rutgers' athletic department. How it addresses the surplus will be telling.

"How nice is too nice? How nice do you have to be?" Fraser said. "We’ve got everything you should want and you should need, and everything’s beautiful. That’s recruiting. That’s the world of recruiting right now. Even if you paint, you say, ‘Hey, we redid the facilities.’ Because why? Because you can put it on paper that you redid the facilities. At least you’re not telling a whole lie.”

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