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Let’s talk about the Rutgers Athletic Center

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Namely, it’s not that big

Rutgers Athletic Center National Anthem Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It would be unfair of me to write this and not at least acknowledge - if not outright articulate - the fact that yes, I am impressed by Rutgers basketball in 2019-20. Look, after being what was arguably the worst P5 team for the entirety of Rutgers journey into the Big Ten, Steve Pikiell has created a good team that has a solid chance to make the NCAA Tournament. While there are some issues - like almost losing at home to Nebraska on Saturday - it’s fun to see Rutgers doing this.

Now...

I don’t really know how to segue here because I honestly cannot for the life of me understand how I am going to write any of this with any useful amount of context. Just know that what I said above stands and any and all shade - of which there is considerably more than the capacity at the RAC in context of the rest of quite literally all of their peers - is not justified and I get that, but I’m still doing it because I was pushed here in an offhand conversation that went off the rails. We good with that? We all understand that this is not a slight to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball team in 2019-20? We do? Cool.

The RAC is small.

I know, I know. This comes as very little surprise to most everyone, but our very own Rutgers writer tried to convince me otherwise today by citing (a) Duke, (b) Miami, (c) Notre Dame, and (d) Boston College. Ignoring - for a moment - that Miami is the only one smaller, and that Duke is considerably larger, I dove into an incredibly stupid set of data that means literally nothing considering arena capacity does not equal attendance nor does it mean you automatically get a homecourt advantage.

Now, before I continue, it’s fair to ask if this was worthwhile. The answer is objectively, ‘no,’ in that I win nothing from this except a spreadsheet of data and an unwavering sense of smug superiority because I can read numbers. Oh, and Rutgers is 14-0 at home so none of this means anything but the conversation happened, leading me to this ridiculous article, and here is what I found:

  1. The average Division 1 NCAA Basketball Capacity is 7,901, so yes, the RAC is above average when looking at the entirety of D1 Basketball.
  2. Of the 354 schools in D1, only 120 are smaller than 8,000, so the RAC is definitely in that sweet spot of just above bottom third.
  3. Only three P5 schools have arenas smaller than 8,000, Stanford, Northwestern, and Miami (FL). All three of those schools are private schools with fairly small undergraduate populations.
  4. The average capacity for P5 schools is 13,783, which is considerably larger than 8,000 (72% larger if you’re wondering)
  5. As for the Big Ten, the average capacity is 14,716 (84% larger) which - to be fair - is the largest in the nation so perhaps 8,000 is not necessarily just small in general, but also extremely small in comparison to what we’re all used to.
  6. OTE Leader MNW noted to me that Northwestern was actually larger than 8,000 before renovating and deciding, ‘know what, let’s just go ahead and not pretend we need this many seats’.
  7. Giving the RAC the benefit of the doubt because they’re fairly new to the Big Ten, it’s fair to look at both the Big East and the American. The Big East average capacity is 14,329 with Villanova (undergrad enrollment of 6,917, or roughly 20% of Rutgers) being the only school under 8,000. The American has four schools at or below 8,000, but still averages 9,578 which means Rutgers would be below average - or small - by that conference’s standards as well.
  8. The smallest arena in D1 basketball is USC Upstate, who plays at the GB Hodge Center to a max capacity of 878. Rutgers is over 9x that so that’s good. That might literally be a high school gym.

By all accounts, Rutgers is having an awesome year, and I am happy for all Scarlet Knight fans. One of the most fun times I had was when Tim Miles came into Nebraska and in Year 2 went on a run losing only one game at home - to then Top Ten Michigan. It was a blast and we probably talked all sorts of shit about how fun it was. I’m not here to stop any of that or to make any of it less magical.

Oh, and the RAC is obviously a fun place where fans are giving this team a great homecourt advantage. Keep feeling good about all of that, not that you need my permission. That said, when someone tries to convince me that the RAC isn’t a small arena, I’m definitely going to write 800+ words about it being small. Again, worthwhile? Nope. Fun? Probably more than I’m letting on.

So, to recap:

Rutgers’ Season: AWESOME!

Rutgers’ Arena: SMALL!

Need for any of this: None!

Oh, and if you’re curious, I pulled all of the data from the Wikipedia page on D1 Arenas, and I pivoted it all here.

Poll

The RAC is small

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Obviously!
    (124 votes)
  • 23%
    It could be smaller!
    (80 votes)
  • 39%
    I cannot believe you wrote this, Jesse (neither can I)
    (132 votes)
336 votes total Vote Now