March 19, 2019 | 41° F

Rutgers allocates too much money to athletic programs, facilities


Major state universities, like Rutgers University, are institutions of higher learning that are supposed to be dedicated to teaching, scholarship, service to the state and cutting edge research. Major state universities should be known for these missions — not for their trivial mascots. Yet, if you tell a layperson that you go to (or teach at) Rutgers University, the response is almost invariably “Oh, The Scarlet Knights!” The University of Georgia is recognized as the Bulldogs, Penn State as the Nittany Lions (whatever a Nittany is — or how it is spelled) and the University of Florida is the Gators.

Mascots for near-professional football and basketball teams at large universities serve as recognition symbols for universities, detracting from their real missions of higher learning. Consider the $102 million outlay for expansion of the High Point Solutions Stadium (what does that name mean — are we supposed to know?). In that expansion, 12,352 seats were added. If more seats were the reason for expansion, why did they cost $8,260 each? Or was the real reason for the expansion to create a plush “recruitment center” with closed circuit TVs adorning all four sides of scads of pillars in the lavish glass enclosed room overlooking the football field. Was it necessary, as well, to have closed circuit TVs built into all the bathroom mirrors and hanging above all the urinals? Would a man miss even one play while standing at a urinal?

Contrast the luxurious quarters, centered on University athletics, with conditions of some of our science buildings. Does it make sense to spend $8,260 on one stadium seat when a simple fluorescent light fixture in a valuable instrument room sits dark for 24 months because the University supplies only one electrician for 100 buildings? There is something dreadfully wrong with this scene.

I have a partial solution to the exorbitant abuses, expenses, scandals, recruitment violations and general distractions that poison major sports at our universities. There should be no NCAA, especially one dedicated to preserving the paradoxes and hiding the abuses that are intercollegiate sports. Get rid of it. Instead, college athletes should be well-paid staff members belonging to a department of “Professional Intercollegiate Athletics.” Call a spade a spade. Unlike major league baseball that relies on self-sustaining minor league training grounds, why should “educational” institutions pay the expenses to develop football players and basketball players only to hand them over to the pros? It makes no sense. Fully compensated sports stars should be recruited as athletes not as jocks masquerading as scholars (and often failing in this capacity). A faculty member (also an interim academic administrator) who was the faculty advisor to the intercollegiate athletics program a few years back, told me in person that exactly one of the football players (the team has more than 100) and none of the basketball players would have been accepted to Rutgers University on academic merits alone. So one, out of perhaps 170, was the only person who could be called a scholar/athlete. It is time for a change.

William W. Ward, Ph.D. is an associate professor of biochemistry with the Center for Research & Education in Bioluminescence & Biotechnology (CREBB) at Rutgers University. 

William W. Ward

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