From a Rutgers correspondent:

"By now, everyone understands that Robert Barchi doesn't have a clue. The Scarlet R coterie on the BOG doesn't have a clue. No one in the administration has a clue. Nor do any of the semiliterate boosters ('it gave him piece of mind,' 'I'm sure their are more,' 'waiting with baited breath') who never attended Rutgers, but who are nonetheless pathetically eager to claim an imaginary connection to a 'college team.'

Now Forbes Magazine, commenting on the dismal spectacle that began with Rutgers' entry into the 'Big East' in 1994, has found the clue. This may be a sign of change. Wittingly or unwittingly, President Barchi has given the impression that he worships CEOs and other business types. He loves talking about Rutgers as a 'brand.' Forbes Magazine speaks that language. Barchi has never chosen to listen to faculty and alumni who have urged him to set Rutgers free from commercialized Div IA athletics so as to return to its values as an old eastern university. Is there a chance that he might be willing to listen to Forbes?"

Forbes Magazine


Losing at a Dollar a Second: Rutgers University

By Richard Vedder

2 April 2015

Of all the schools that have tried to use intercollegiate athletics to advance the university’s name recognition and mission, none have done so more vigorously and expensively than Rutgers University. At last report, the school’s spending on sports exceeds revenue by over $36 million annually. That is the equivalent of a dollar a second during every minute, hour, day, week and month of the year.

That is about $900 for every student attending the main campus of the University at New Brunswick. To be sure, the students directly pay somewhat less than that through student fees, but the university’s budgetary support for athletics is money that could have been used to reduce basic tuition fees for instruction. Since students are typically in school less than nine months a year, the typical Rutgers student pays about $100 every month to support the schools quixotic efforts to achieve athletic greatness.

The University Senate at Rutgers, a fairly important institution with influence over decisions, has finally said “enough is enough. It is time to end this madness.” Over the last decade, it appears that the school has poured about $250 million into “investing” in its athletic programs.

What have they gotten? Improvements in academic reputation? If the US News rankings are any guide, Rutgers academic standing over the last decade of athletic expansion declined materially, from 58th to 70th. The Forbes Best Colleges list ranks Rutgers a so-so 177th, below a less well known state school, the College of New Jersey.

The University Board of Governors, the apparent instigators of this move to promote big time athletics, might argue “the payoff is coming; in a few years, we will be getting tens of millions annually from the Big Ten from their lucrative television contracts.” To them, big time athletics may be something like prospecting for oil: you spend a lot of money in frustration for years, but at the end there is a jackpot well worth seeking.

It is true that some of the 14 Big Ten teams now getting the television money break even on sports or at least come pretty close. But as the money pot expands with the public’s insatiable demand for athletic entertainment, so do expenses – coach salaries soar, for example, and now new expenses are on the horizon – paying players more, potential legal liabilities over medical issues associated with athletic injuries, etc.

To date, the results at Rutgers are rather underwhelming. To be sure, Rutgers had a football team that went 8 and 5 this year, but a basketball team that was last in the Big Ten and that lost more than twice as many games as it won (10 and 22). Moreover, the reported already huge budgetary losses disguise and understate true costs, as it is implicitly assumed that stadiums, basketball arenas and indoor practice facilities are gifts from God.

To be truly competitive, Rutgers is no doubt going to have to spend minimally tens of millions and arguably hundreds of millions on new venues to keep up with its new conference peers like the University of Michigan or Ohio State.

A bipartisan bill before Congress asks for a national commission to review intercollegiate athletics and make recommendations. Aside from financial considerations, this area has become a moral cesspool that has besmirched the reputations of some fine institutions, most recently and noticeably, Penn State and the University of North Carolina.

Something that few gung ho sports advocates acknowledge is the Iron Law of Sports: every time someone wins a game, someone else loses. It is impossible in any given year for more than a small percentage of schools to achieve much positive recognition from football or basketball. The diversion of significant financial resources from Job One – teaching and research – tarnishes the moral claim that universities often assert as being agents that promote the long term public good.

Rutgers is the only one of the nine colleges founded during the colonial era not in the top 50 in the Forbes Best Colleges list. Perhaps rather than concentrating on athletics, it should behave like the other eight colonial schools, none a big-time athletic power, and concentrate on using the prestige derived from its colonial heritage to build academic prowess.