Rutgers renovates RAC ahead of Big Ten debut

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The Rutgers Athletic Center is getting an upgrade as the school prepares for its close-up as a new member of the Big Ten conference.

It’s a rare positive report from the school that has battled North Carolina and the P.J. Hairston mess for “worst off-season news headlines” this year.

New AD Julie Hermann, who played no small role in the school’s public relations meltdown, is overseeing a $2.4 million facelift to the Scarlet Knights’ 8,000 seat arena, which hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1977. She calls the renovation project “absolutely mission critical”, according to Jerry Carino of the New Jersey Hoops Haven blog.

The scoreboards and sound system cost a total of $1.6 million. Add $827,000 for construction of a control room, wiring, structural steel and other engineering costs to bring the tab to $2.4 million for this part of the project. Former athletics director Tim Pernetti had raised more than $10 million in donations for the overhaul before he resigned in April in the wake of controversy surrounding the behavior of former men’s basketball coach Mike Rice.

“It gives us an opportunity to put a whole lot of really fun video content in place for fans,” Hermann said in a phone interview. “It adds a whole new element to a basketball game, and for us it’s a revenue opportunity.”

Carino also reports that new head coach Eddie Jordan and his staff will move from their cramped offices in the RAC. In fact, Jordan will take over Hermann’s current office in the AD’s suite, which is reported to be far more spacious and open. Hermann has showed where her priorities lie during the switchover, taking over Jordan’s old office and convincing other senior staff in the athletic department to give up their own comforts as the renovation continues.

It’s going to take a lot more than a metaphorical new coat of paint to revive Rutgers’ public image, but any step in the right direction is a good step at this point.