Robert Morris' goal to become a top mid-major


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With Mike Rice, the "face of the university," signed to a one-year contract extension, Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman said Friday the university is committed to making the men's basketball program one of the best mid-majors in the country.

At a news conference addressing Rice's extension, Coleman and university president Greg Dell'Omo announced their intention to invest in whatever it takes to make Robert Morris the new Gonzaga, Butler or Cornell.

But, in order to invest, they will need some cash.

"Unfortunately, we don't have a ton of money to do everything overnight," Dell'Omo said.

Robert Morris is forming a basketball fundraising committee to find donors who can contribute to the program and another committee to identify where resources can best be spent, Coleman said.

That starts with the Charles L. Sewall Center, the Colonials' home gym. Built in 1985, the Sewall Center looks obsolete when compared to top-level arenas at Northeast Conference foes Quinnipiac and Monmouth, which Rice called "unbelievable facilities."

Dell'Omo said the university will cast a wide net to find support for the program.

"We are making a firm commitment to building this program and building the facilities that make this program as successful as possible," he said.

Keeping Rice in Moon was the first step, Coleman said, adding the extension "shows that we are going to be making a commitment to elevating this program to another level."

Financial terms of the extension were not disclosed, but a source with knowledge of the contract said the new deal comes with a salary increase that makes Rice one of the highest-paid coaches in the NEC.

Rice's extension keeps him under contract until the end of the 2016-17 season. He signed a three-year extension last season after leading the Colonials to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1992. In three years at Robert Morris, Rice is 73-31, winning three consecutive NEC regular-season titles and making two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

Coleman said a lot of athletic directors called to express an interest in speaking to Rice about coaching vacancies.

"It was a busy time," Coleman said. "It was an uncertain time. But I felt in the end if it was meant to be, he'd stay here."

Rice, 41, said he had a "very interesting last three weeks," adding he is somewhat surprised to still be at Robert Morris.

"The way my profession is, you tend to win and get out," he said.

But, in talking with other schools, he said he realized he is lucky to be at Robert Morris, especially with a handful of talented players returning and an administration intent on raising the program's stature.

"The grass wasn't greener," he said. "This is the place where I want to be and the program that I want to build even further."

But that does not mean Rice will coach Robert Morris through the end of his contract. He said a job could open in the future that could compel him to leave.

"There may be a time or a place that makes it a no-brainer," Rice said. "But it's not right now."


Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.


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