Mr Izzo Flunks Out

One of our alumni recently wrote BOG chair Ralph Izzo to urge that Rutgers jettison Div IA athletics, abolish "athletic scholarships," return to participatory athletics, and resume competition against Colgate, Princeton, Lafayette, Columbia, Bucknell, LeHigh, Yale, and the other schools against which Rutgers competed for over a century before its catastrophic plunge into the "Big East" conference in 1994.


Mr Izzo, we are sorry to report, responded as follows:


Dear Mr. ------------:

Thank you for writing to me. I welcome your viewpoint as a fellow Rutgers alumnus and appreciate hearing your thoughts on the role that athletics should play at Rutgers. . . . We are committed to a course of action designed to make our athletics program financially self-sufficient over the long run. I must tell you, however, that the Board has no plans to remove Rutgers from the most competitive athletics division. We believe that, as state universities from Virginia to Michigan to California have shown, high-level academics and big-time sports can co-exist and even thrive within a public research university.

You have my best wishes.


Ralph Izzo

Chair of the Board of Governors


Alumni Responses

Mr Izzo's letter has been widely circulated among alumni concerned about the effects of "big time" athletics at Rutgers, including "faculty flight" -- e.g., the growing number of faculty leaving the Rutgers Philosophy Department, until very recently the best in the United States -- the decline in applications from bright and intellectually engaged students, in favor of "party animal" students who paint their faces and get drunk before football games, the continued deterioration of Rutgers' "slum campus," with its litter-strewn sidewalks, traffic-choked streets, and disintegrating classroom and dormitory buildings, and much more.

A number of Rutgers alumni and alumnae sent us letters in response to Mr. Izzo's statement.

From Bergen County:

"What does Ralph Izzo mean by 'thrive'? Especially when he mentions the University of Michigan.

Is he thinking about the Michigan where boosters paid nearly a million dollars in under-the-table money to players on the 'Fab Five' basketball team that took UM to the 'Final Four' in 1992 and 1993? Or about Chris Webber, a member of the 'Fab Five' who lied to a Federal Grand Jury about getting money from boosters? Or is Izzo thinking about all those games and Big Ten championships that Michigan had to forfeit when the FBI investigation brought the whole filthy business into the open? Is that what he means by 'coexist'? By 'thrive'? Is that what he wants for Rutgers?

From Connecticut:

" I didn't believe my eyes when I saw the part about how 'big-time athletics can thrive' at Rutgers. That's what Francis Lawrence used to say. If you asked Lawrence about Rutgers athletics, it was like putting a record on: "There's no conflict between sports and academics. What about Virginia? What about Michigan."

If you pointed out that he was cherry-picking two or three names from a huge list of schools -- 123 of them in Div IA football -- most of which had (1) terrible academic standards and (2) scandals involving academic fraud and booster payoffs simmering just beneath the surface, he'd go right back to his Virginia, Michigan' mantra.

The RU alums I know say that Izzo should tell us which of those 'big time' schools the BOG wants Rutgers to imitate. Virginia Tech? Ohio State? Nebraska? The University of Miami? There are over a hundred schools out there where big time sports do 'coexist' with academics, but the academics are sixth-grade level and the athletics are rotten to the core."

From Chicago:

"How can Izzo use Michigan as an example? Does he know anything about the academic fraud scandal they had in 2008, where a psychology professor named Hagen was running hundreds of phoney 'Independent Study' courses to keep football players eligible?

Did Izzo happen to see the famous Ann Arbor News investigative series ? About the 294 'Independent Studies' this Hagan gave in one three-year period, 85% of them to athletes? About how the Athletics Department was steering athletes into Hagen's 'Independent Studies'? About the discovery that that football players had been permitted to enroll two months after the end of the add/drop period to get eligibility grades from Hagen? Does Izzo know that none of these Michigan athletes got a grade lower than B-?

Or was Izzo thinking about Ojibwe, the Native American Language? Does he know that Michigan football players who took five courses, getting A's and B's, couldn't, when asked, say a word in Ojibwe?

Seriously, is this what Izzo means by having big-time athletics and high-level academics 'co-exist and thrive'? Is this what he wants for Rutgers -- boosters shoveling under-the-table money to promising recruits, 'athletics friendly' faculty happy to do anything necessary to keep low-SAT athletics eligible, money being poured down the athletics drain while bright and intellectually deserving students are totally neglected at the institution?

There's a presidential search on at Rutgers right now. Mr Izzo is running it. I'd be wiling to make a small bet about what kind of president Rutgers is going to get."