July 16, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers taken to task in Athletics report

In an attempt to settle allocations of ambiguity within the Athletic Department, the University's Athletic Review Committee released a report on its internal review of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics' policies and practices yesterday, revealing a surprisingly candid critique of Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Robert E. Mulcahy, University President Richard L. McCormick and the University Board of Governors.

The report cited among the committee's main concerns the athletic director's ability to operate for the most part without restrictions, allowing him to shirk obligations to inform McCormick or the board about amendments to Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano's contract.

"Any institution that aspires to achieve even greater accomplishments and to realize the highest ideals should periodically take stock of what it has done and ask how it can do better," McCormick said. "… The University is more committed than ever to the values of accountability, transparency and rigorous adherence to established procedures for decision-making."

The report accused the absence of a well-defined contract review and approval process for Mulcahy, as well as the board and McCormick's lack of involvement in University Athletics as a means for Mulcahy's insular decision-making.

"It would have clearly been the better path if Mr. Mulcahy's 1998 appointment letter had, in its grant of authority, described the manner in which that authority was to be exercised," according to the report. "This was not the case, however, and it did not identify situations where either President or Board review and approval would be required. In retrospect, the vesting of Mr. Mulcahy with this level of authority set the stage for much of what follows in this report."

What followed was a list of perceived errors Mulcahy, the board and McCormick made in regards to Athletics throughout their administrations. Among the top grievances, the report listed Schiano's clandestine contract sweeteners — monies spent that never made it into the University's budget — and a non-competitive contract with Nelligan Sports Marketing.

But according to the report, entering into agreements on behalf of the University with Nelligan was within the scope of Mulcahy's authority.

"Importantly, while the initial contract and successive amendments were not competitively bid, there was neither a legal obligation nor clear internal policy requiring him to do so," according to the report.

The committee identified no illegal or unethical activities at the University in their report and said they do not raise concerns about the outcomes of decisions that were made by the University.

McCormick noted in his response the University's targeted investments in Athletics to increase the visibility of the University and its many fine academic programs and research initiatives as a risk to the school's credibility, since bad Athletic publicity would bring bad publicity to the University as a whole.

"The University points out that when over 40,000 fans fill every available seat in Rutgers Stadium for a home football game, a spirit of energy and unity captures the University community as well as the State," McCormick said. McCormick announced a list of immediate actions as a response to the report, including establishing a committee to develop a signatory authority policy to codify and clarify approval authorities for contracts, as well as establishing a policy that requires the use of written employment contracts for coaches and forbids the use of side letters unless there is a justification approved by the Office of General Counsel to do so.

"Their report is consistent with what I had hoped for when I appointed the committee last summer," McCormick said. "I asked the members of the committee to ‘probe deeply' all relevant issues and to bring forward constructive recommendations for improvements … I applaud their work and welcome their recommendations."

Rachel Gillett

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