U. community alarmed with athletic spending
In recent weeks, the University's Athletic Review Committee issued a report accusing President Richard L. McCormick and the Board of Governors of mismanagement of Rutgers' Athletic Department.
The report said the two allowed Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy free reign over dealings with multimillion-dollar contracts for Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano and Nelligan Sports Marketing, to which the University community responded with mixed feelings of surprise, alarm and a demand for change.
Many University advocates express concerns that the University spent millions of dollars furthering its ambition to become a major football power over a commitment to academics.
Jad Kaado, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said it is upsetting to him that while the University has suffered cuts of an estimated 400 courses and 600 staff positions, football funding has seen only increases over the years. He said there are many departments that have lost faculty members simply because the University couldn't hire them due to budget issues.
"Rutgers University is an academic institution, and the Board of Governors and McCormick should be focusing [on] and allocating resources to our various academic departments rather than athletics," Kaado said. "In all honesty, Rutgers is an academic institution, not the NFL."
While the report stated there were no illegal dealings or contracts within the Athletic Department, Kaado said this does not detract from the University's unbalanced attention to the Athletic Department.
"In the end, a football match is a game, that's all, nothing more, nothing less," Kaado said. "Academics deal with people's future. People go to universities so they can build their lives, not watch sports."
Kaado said the University is the breeding ground for potential doctors, lawyers, politicians and artists, among many other possibilities. He said those are the people who will make a difference in the world, and most of the resources the University receives should be allocated to the academic departments.
He said rather than allow a vast budget for the Athletic Department, the University should divert some funding toward classroom maintenance, higher budgets for course costs and academic resources for students.
"Eleven academic magazines were canceled from our libraries, and we lost our subscription for JSTOR[, a digital archive for scholarship]. We can't not access JSTOR anymore," Kaado said. "For being a public ivy, that's kind of sad."
Kaado said the most disappointing aspect for him is the University's inability to hire valuable faculty members, especially ones who deserve tenure. He says it is shameful that two of the top three highest paid faculty members at the University are Schiano and Rutgers women's basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer. According to RU Employee Search, a public service provided by The Asbury Park Press, both coaches make a yearly salary of $450,000.
"The University is more committed than ever to the values of accountability, transparency and rigorous adherence to established procedures for decision-making," McCormick said in response to the report. "Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters and the citizens of New Jersey expect and deserve no less."
But John Lister, the administrative supervisor for Recreational Services, does not believe the administration has been completely forthcoming with information.
"President McCormick, despite his promising a whole load of transparency and information, the whole Athletic Department under him still refuses to issue any meaningful budget information," Lister said. "Mulcahy keeps making claims that football's made a profit, and we say, ‘Oh no, it hasn't, we don't believe you,' and we've seen no supporting evidence. I believe that that should have been included in the report because if McCormick is saying we're going to have a transparent administration, then he should live up to what he says."
Lister said he attended a meeting last January about the Rutgers Stadium construction and asked for detailed budget information. He said the information was not forthcoming, claiming that any time someone asks McCormick for information in public, he says it is coming and he will send it to that inquirer, when in actuality he does no such thing. Lister said he has sent several e-mails asking for the budget information and that he has yet to receive a response.
In fact, according to The Star-Ledger, University officials refused to release a 23-page audit in February, calling it an "internal, advisory document."
"It's very easy to make a profit if you discount salaries and you put things into budget categories that they don't really belong," Lister said.
Lister said in years past, they used to put the cost of laundry for team uniforms into other budget categories that are not football related. He said that how much of that is allowed to be discounted should be called into question.
"If Mulcahy has been making those claims, then Mulcahy should have numbers to back it up," Lister said.
Lister said Mulcahy's terms of appointment were unusually broad for anybody in the University. Lister said he himself had to go through University Accounting and fill out six pieces of paperwork before he can spend a "buck fifty." He said it is appalling that Mulcahy has been spending millions of dollars on his own accord, saying there were inadequate checks and balances in place.
"Personally I would like to see Mulcahy go," Lister said. "I do not believe he's made good decisions. I believe the decision to cut all those sports in favor of football was terrible, that the vision of the University that I have is not the vision of the University that Mulcahy has, and I don't think it is possible for the two visions to exist."
By the end of the 2006-07 school year, after the state cut more than $66 million in school funding, the University eliminated six intercollegiate sports: men's heavyweight crew, men's lightweight crew, men's and women's fencing, men's swimming and diving, and men's tennis.
At the time, Mulcahy said the cuts were an extremely difficult and painful decision for him to make.
"Any time you're put in a position of denying opportunities for students, it's a heartbreaking situation," Mulcahy said. "Every student-athlete in our program is a valuable member of our athletic and university community."
During this time, Mulcahy said eliminating the six sports would save $2 million from the Athletic Department's budget. According to an ESPN interview with then-University Athletics spokesman John Wooding, football spending grew from $6.3 million, or 26.8 percent of the budget, in 1998-99, to $13 million, or 31.7 percent, in 2005-06.
These days, according to The Star-Ledger's coverage of the University audit in February, the Athletic Department's total revenues increased from $33 million in 2004 to $44 million in 2007.
The Star-Ledger reported the audit stated, "No one was watching the money flooding into" the Athletic Department, five months before "revelations of hidden deals and no-bid contracts sparked two investigations."
Lister said the motives behind the University's so-called clandestine goings-on were misguided at best since it would be virtually impossible for this University to flourish as a football-centric school. He said, unlike many schools that play into football frenzy as a means to establish its staple, Rutgers rivals many other local sports teams for attention, and it would be difficult to profit from investments in the sport in the long run.
"The economic benefit of having a football team is just not there," Lister said. "I'd like to see transparency in sports so that we can see all the budgets, we know what we're getting, we know what they're paying for and that the people in charge have some sort of accountability to a group that's not just all football boosters."