November 6, 2006
It’s a little-known fact that Mister Magoo, the nearsighted old coot who led the UPA cartoon stable for three decades, was a passionate alumnus of Rutgers University who kept his old pennants and raccoon coats mothballed in the closet and never missed a homecoming game. His love of all things Rutgers kept his spirits high even as he entered the elephant wing of the city zoo thinking it was his old dorm (“Same inspiring view,” he murmured happily, staring at an elephant’s backside).
Little did I know that Mister Magoo has been in charge of the football program budget all these decades! How else to explain the expenditures tabulated in this outstanding expose in the Record, which ought to become the number-one topic in the state once the elections are finally out of the way:
While football spending has been climbing, and hit a new high of more than $13 million last season, Rutgers is coping with an $80 million shortfall in state aid. More than 600 jobs and 800 course sections have been lost. Six high-performing Olympic sports are being axed.
From bus schedules to library hours, students are feeling the pinch. Tuition is up 8 percent this year. At just under $20,000 for a full-time student who lives on campus, Rutgers is among the most expensive state universities in the nation.
“It’s a straight upward line for the football team and a straight downward line for the academic and physical conditions here,” said Richard Gundy, a statistics professor. “This is a political issue, not only within the university, but it should be a political issue in the state.”
As a Rutgers alumnus, a New Jersey taxpayer and a rational human being, I am aghast at these numbers. Nearly $90,000 for rings, pendants and other schwag at last year’s Insight Bowl in Arizona, which generated a total cost to the university of well over a million dollars. Another ten grand to join a black-tie dinner for collegiate athletic departments at the Waldorf-Astoria. A coach paid over a million bucks a year in salary, plus $998 a month for his Cadillac Escalade, and up to $158,000 spent preparing a lot in the Rutgers Ecological Preserve where the pope of pigskin will have a house built for him on the university dime.
Football revenue is up — most recently due to increased ticket sales and more television exposure. But so is spending.
Although Rutgers officials balked at releasing budget figures, it is clear that each year the university subsidizes football. Last year, the figure was $2.65 million in direct support and student fees, according to an unaudited statement. Each undergraduate in New Brunswick pays $270 a season in intercollegiate athletic fees. In return, students get free seats at all Rutgers sporting events.
Since [athletic director Russ] Mulcahy took the reins in 1998, athletic spending has nearly doubled, hitting a high of more than $41 million last year — about a third going for football.
“When I was brought in, the mandate I was given was to restructure the department, make it competitive and fix football,” Mulcahy said. “I have the backing of the board of governors and I have the backing of the president.”
But at Rutgers some are asking “what price glory?”
“Real students are being marginalized and cheated in 100 different ways,” said William Dowling, an English professor and longtime critic of Rutgers’ Division I-A buildup. “Now the financial situation makes more dramatic what big-time athletics does to an institution.”
There’s plenty more to read, and you should read all of it. The cost of nurturing this program over the decades has grown to the point that Olympic-caliber sports like fencing and crew are being cut to feed the Magoo dreams of alumni and administrators.
I used to think the team should be renamed the Golden Calves, but this Record story proves that Scarlet Knights is the perfect name for this outfit — out of date, impenetrable to attack and always in the red.