“Big-time Disgrace”

June 30, 2008

“While Rutgers might have trouble this winter finding the money to heat its dorms and classrooms, it continues to pour millions into its football and basketball facilities. There’s no better way for the taxpayer-funded state school to impress out-of-state recruits, many of whom, if not for football or basketball, would be far too academically deficient to be accepted to Rutgers….Sick, ain’t it?

That’s a snippet from today’s Phil Mushnick column in the New York Post, a scathing attack on Rutgers and its push into big-time sports.

Read Mushnick, he hits this nail directly on the head.

If Mushnick gets you angry, find plenty of laughs in this booster thread attacking Mushnick. The words posted by hardcore RU fans in defense of the program usually prove the opposite — but at least they are (unintentionally) funny.

Rutgers pegged for 7th in the Big East

June 28, 2008

The Sporting News has released its forecast for Big East football and, in an eight team league, Rutgers is tabbed to finish 7th. That’s ahead only of hapless Syracuse.

Before booing, remember that in 2007 Rutgers finished tied with Louisville and Pitt for 5th – ahead only of hapless Syracuse.

Remember, too, that Rutgers lost Ray Rice to the NFL, its offensive line is decimated by graduation, the defense was porous last year and there’s no reason to think it has gotten better. Call this edition of the Scarlet Knight just more mediocrity and that seems right on.

And yet Mulcahy III and Slick McCormick continue the money gusher into football — to what end? Latter day fans will flee a losing edition of the Scarlet Knights like cockroaches escaping Raid and, by season’s end, our bet (Preston Pennypacker‘s Panglossian prediction aside) is that Rutgers will be lucky to limp to a 7-5 result, even with the shameless stacking of creampuffs onto the schedule.

We expect the Rutgers losses to start against Fresno State and we anticipate that every tough opponent will throttle Schiano’s Schoolboys. By season’s end we expect Rutgers Stadium to be as empty as a cemetery at midnight in a blizzard — and watch that diminished enthusiasm crush ticket sales for the 2009 campaign. New Jersey fans have no affection for losers and they will show it by not showing up.

Will Slick McCormick then confess that the foray into high-priced football was a disaster — just as his father Richard McCormick the elder suggested to the New York Times a decade ago.

Is Greg Schiano “batsh*t insane?”

June 28, 2008

A poster to to the Scout message board says Schiano definitely is insane — because the Rutgers football coach apparently tells potential recruits that he has some kind of pipeline to God.  As a recent recruit was reported to say: “it was all about Coach Schiano. When he started talking about how his visions for his program come from God that really set him apart…and I knew I wanted to be there with him as my leader.”

There is no doubt that Schiano is a self-professed “born-again” Christian.  Last May he appeared at a born-again concert and, he suggested, that when his play-calling produces wins, God’s hand is on the rudder.

Some anti-Schiano posters, meantime, say his religiosity is all bunkum, just another con used to hook unsophisticated high schoolers into joining the second-rate Rutgers program.

Rabid Rivals boosters take a different position which boils down to a pragmatic, who cares, just give us the commits.

All this raises profound questions.

* Does coach Schiano profess that he talks to God?

* If he says that, is this appropriate for an employee of Rutgers, the State University?

* If he says that, is it grounds for a psychiatric examination?

* If he says that and is insincere,  what does that say about the Rutgers program?

Where the Buck Stopped

June 28, 2008

As a gusher of cash cascades into Rutgers football, the university is funding academics at lower and lower rates — thus the school’s plummet into the nether reaches of US News & World Reports’ ranking of public universities (Rutgers is 20 among publics and falling).

Money still talks — and at Rutgers its absence (save for football, where there is a reckless $100+ million stadium expansion plan and the coach with a lifetime losing record now is the state of New Jersey’s highest paid public worker) is why the university’s academics are increasingly silent.

Here is how grave the situation is — and why we are there in the first place: “Our education system has already been impacted by budget difficulties. Over three years, New Jersey’s colleges and universities have lost $266 million in funding. The proposed 2009 budget provides Rutgers with less than we received 11 years ago. During that same time, the state budget doubled and Rutgers’ enrollment grew by 4,000 students,” writes Michael Palis, interim dean of the Rutgers-Camden Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed.

In the 2009 New Jersey budget, Rutgers is slated to lose another $38 million in funding — and that will translate into yet more deferred maintenance, more teacher layoffs, more classes canceled.

All of this is why Rutgers now ranks #117 in the new index of universities issued by the Center for College Affordability & Productivity. Rutgers simply has become a very bad buy — roughly comparable to the University of Dayton. The once proud public ivy has become a weed.

The message for New Jersey’s high school seniors, the Class of 2009, is stark: Plan to go out of state for a quality higher education. You just won’t find it in New Jersey.

Failing Grades

June 26, 2008

Memo to high schoolers who are committing to come to play football at Rutgers: know that you can do better. Rutgers’ academic decline has been well-documented — the school now is on a par with Texas A &M as the once public ivy has become a weed. But even worse for prospective footballers is how thoroughly Rutgers has failed its players:

* Do more Rutgers football players go onto the NFL…or into jail?

* Do more Rutgers football players graduate…or leave school without a degree?

* Did you know that — amidst the ebullience over high schoolers who commit to play at Rutgers — one in ten will never make it onto the team because of an inability to meet the minimal academic “standards” set out by the NCAA?

Probably the real shocker — amidst Mulcahy III’s crowing about Rutgers’ APR (Academic Progress Rate) — is that only 46% of RU footballers wind up with a degree in six years, the poorest performance among Big East schools. The rest of the student athletes at Rutgers have a 75 percent graduation rate. All RU students have a 72 percent graduation rate. Something is very rotten when — with tutors, gut courses and more — not even half of Schiano’s footballers graduate. If you believe that makes the APR “success” look like so much hooey, welcome to the side of clear thinking uninfluenced by the musky smell of jockstraps.

Then there’s the jail issue. Every other year one of Schiano’s kids goes to jail — compared to one kid a year going into the NFL. The nod goes to the NFL, unless of course you are the kid in jail or that kid’s victims.

Mulcahy III and university president Slick McCormick are incessantly ready to cite the APR standings — where Rutgers football is indeed among the highest rated programs — but they neglect to mention that there are many other metrics that show football under Schiano to be a laggard, a program that fails its players as often as it has failed its fans.

Get more details in this Star Ledger round-up from the archives.

Our advice to the early commits — verbals are non-binding, so start thinking anew about where you really want to go to school.

Damn the Alumni, Full speed ahead!

June 25, 2008

Alumni affairs veep Donna Thornton today distributed a dense, three-page memo to class correspondents — who, yes!, get to keep that title, not the much loathed “class contributor” moniker which they had been told would be theirs — and first reaction from one reader was: Damn the alumni, full speed ahead!

Other than apparently infringing on the copyright of the New York Times (we hope we are wrong –more on that possible infringement momentarily), Thornton offered little that is new:

* She apologized for ignoring Rutgers alum input while this gaggle of UMass and Maine graduates in the RU alumni relations office revamped our alumni communications: “We should have communicated with you much earlier about the challenges and ideas we were contemplating and included you in the process. We regret that this left you feeling unappreciated and caught you by surprise.”

* She said buck up, dudes, we still insist on a maximum 200 wd. contribution.

* She backed off, maybe, the policy of printing only some columns in Rutgers magazine: “In the immediate future, we will explore a formula that allows every class to be in every issue as well as maximizes the online capabilities of our more internet savvy graduates. All class columns will be published in the Fall 2008 issue.” Note: there is no promise beyond the next issue.

* “Your title will continue to be Class Correspondent. This title has a long tradition at Rutgers and will continue to serve you and Rutgers well.” Funny that it took a mini-revolt to get an obvious point across but perhaps Mainers just are, well, different.

* In the cover note to her lengthy message, Thornton writes: “You will also receive a copy of this letter in the US mail along with a printed copy of the New York Times article I reference in the letter.” The New York Times article is here – but, Ms. Thornton, making hundreds of photocopies of intellectual property owned by the Times is a violation of rights. We trust — we hope, we pray — you have secured and paid for distribution rights, available by clicking on the “reprint” tab on the article page. (Linking to the article is not a copyright problem. Printing it and mailing it in bulk is.)  We mention all this because a remarkable cluelessness about publishing seems baked into the Rutgers alumni relations approach.

* Boil down Thornton’s turgid, murky miasma of prose and what she seems to be saying is –we don’t really know what we are doing, bear with us, we may figure it out.

* Lucky class correspondents can expect to receive much more of the same: “In the future, we will diligently communicate with you and engage you in a dialogue on items pertaining to the evolution of the Class Notes section in Rutgers Magazine and in the online community.”

Pennypacker Picks 9-3 RU Season

June 22, 2008

At least some Rutgers 1000 stalwarts are ardent gridiron fans and one longtime Rutgers 1000 adherent, Preston Pennypacker, recently approached us with his conviction that the Rutgers football team will go 9-3 this year.

We reacted with skepticism – our sense is that the team (minus Ray Rice and half the offensive line) just isn’t that good.

But Pennypacker persisted. Here are his predictions for the 2008 campaign:

Fresno State (W)

North Carolina (W)

Navy (W)

Morgan State (W)

West Virginia (L)

Cincinnati (L)

Connecticut (W)

Pittsburgh (W)

Syracuse (W)

South Florida (L)

Army (W)

Louisville (W)

What does he base this Panglossian outlook on? Pennypacker explained to us that he is using the 2007 season ending Sagarin ratings. Rutgers ended the season at #38 and, per Pennypacker, the 2008 schedule has more cream puffs than a French bakery. The number in parenthesis is the season ending Sagarin rating.:

Fresno State (60)

North Carolina (69)

Navy (74)

Morgan State (205)

West Virginia (3)

Cincinnati (19)

Connecticut (39)

Pittsburgh (66)

Syracuse (113)

South Florida (20)

Army (131)

Louisville (45)

Is a victory over a Syracuse, an Army, a Morgan State not worth exactly the same as a win over the a top 10 team? You bet those wins count in the calculus of Rutgers athletic director Mulcahy the III. Add in wins over real mediocrities such as North Carolina and Navy and, suddenly, the cunning of Mulcahy III is evident. Rutgers can hardly not have a winning season!

Pennypacker is spot on. The computer says 9-3 is within reach and all that without registering a single quality win. Clap your hands loud for duplicitous scheduling – and know, per Pennypacker, that yet another appearance in a tertiary, low-prestige bowl is assured for the RU football squad.

Go, go Mulcahy III. With scheduling like this, Rutgers cannot lose – and as long as the fans are so intoxicated with the odors of musky jocks that thought is paralyzed they’ll never figure out that the fix was in at the get go.

Reinventing Rutgers Magazine, More

June 22, 2008

Let’s be honest: Rutgers Magazine is a sprawling, chaotic, uninviting mess, clearly architected by people who are clueless about how to make a print publication work in an era of ezines, interactivity and social media. We do not happen to believe that print is dead — but we also believe that publications like Rutgers Magazine are hastening the death of print because this is stuff that no one wants to read.

Question: were alums consulted on what they want to read? We don’t know anybody who was asked.

Question: why have class correspondents been so brutally, thoughtless relegated to the dustbin?

Question: is there really no paid advertising in Spring 2008 issue — and if advertisers are this scornful, why kill trees to print this boring pablum?

Question: why is the high-priced brain trust assembled by university president Dick McCormick so wretchedly incompetent?

We don’t know the answers, but here we provide a crib sheet that points to a better future — a memo from MIT’s “Technology Review” editor to that school’s alums. Technology Review is a first-rate magazine with a significant readership outside MIT (MIT alums get a version with an alumni notes insert). It also is put together by big-brained innovators and what they are doing is reducing print frequency, putting more material on the Web, but they say they will keep running alumni notes in the alumni version…because, duh, that is why alums crack open these pubs. Do you think Rutgers VP Donna Thornton opens her University of Maine alumni publication without first heading to the class notes? We imagine Anthony Guido, director of Rutgers alumni comunications, does much the same when his UMass alumni magazine arrives. Brian Perillo, assistant vice president, alumni relations, also probably does the same with his UMass magazine.

Far as we can tell, the editor of Rutgers Magazine, David W. Major is not a Rutgers graduate either. Good thing, we suppose, that the publication’s name was changed some years ago from the Rutgers Alumni Magazine.

Our advice to the folks tinkering with Rutgers Magazine is stop thinking, it’s not your forte, just steal MIT’s ideas…and, while you are at it, start asking real Rutgers alums what we want in our magazine.

Reinventing Rutgers Magazine

June 20, 2008

Memo to Donna Thornton:

Rutgers Magazine soon moves to a free for all circulation – multiplying distribution to all alums, in a move we support – and, supposedly, the need to cut costs is partly what motivated Rutgers vice president Donna Thornton and her gaggle in Alumni Relations to trim printed Class Notes (putting the bulk of them online, at essentially no cost). We have a better idea. Put out a slimmed down, tight magazine that hacks away the inert and superfluous and you’ll have saved all the money you need to, with no change in how class notes are handled.

Case in point is the Spring 2008 issue, only 88 pages, plus covers – but at least 15% is absolutely wasted space filled with stultifying material. We asked New York editorial professionals to recommend what to cut from the magazine and there was no shortage of possibilities.

Nobody suggested cutting class notes – which run from roughly page 57 through 87 (hard to pinpoint exactly because the editorial grid is about as organized as traffic in Bangalore, India). That content is all many alums read. Trimming it back makes absolutely no sense.

But there is much to cut:

· *     * The spread photo on the inside front cover and page 1. (A similar photo is on page 15.) (2 pages saved)

· * * The entire feature, “I Do at RU,” pages 46-49. Just boring. (6 pages saved, total)

* Editor letter, 1 column, p. 4 (6-1/3 pages saved, total). Editor letters are low-cost “facing edit” for ad sales purposes…but when you sell so few ads you don’t need facing edit. Duh.

·* * “The Gender of Politics,” p. 8, one-half page. No RU relevance. (6-5/6 pages saved. Total.)

· *        * Misc. “Insights” – just cut pp. 32-35, boring boring. (10-5/6 pages saved, total).

· * * “Rutgers 24/7,” pp. 42-45. Pointless filler. (14-5/6 pages saved, total.)

Right there we’ve slashed roughly 1/6th of the pagination – saving 1/6th of the budget – with no loss in quality or readership.

We could fine-tune this and easily cut another 5-1/6 pages (bringing the total to 20 pp cut).

Just ask any magazine professional. The current Rutgers Magazine is flatulent, poorly edited. Tighten it up and there will be ample room for extended class notes in print – which, as we said, is about all anybody reads in the magazine anyway.

Rutgers Alumni Relations in Turmoil

June 18, 2008

Vividly proving yet again that it is clueless about alumni sensitivities and concerns, the McCormick Administration in the past month has managed to alienate essentially the entirely compliment of class correspondents — the volunteers who file class notes blurbs for the alumni magazine, say sources who have forwarded literally hundreds of emails protesting planned changes to the magazine that apparently were dictated from on high, with little consultation and no real advance warning for alums. Many class correspondents have resigned, more say they will quit, and so far all they have gotten from Rutgers vice president, alumni relations Donna Thornton is a whole lot of mumbling and vague promises that maybe things will get better, report our sources.

That’s in between Thornton making scolding, chiding phone calls to alums who apparently have ruffled her delicate feathers by screaming foul about this whole process. Thornton of course is another of McCormick’s high-priced hires, so let’s mull on how she is performing.

Flashback to May 27. That is when a memo went out from one Lori Varga, assistant alumni editor, to the class contributors — and indeed the memo detailed that their titles would change (no explanation given in a stroke that is pure Dilbert) from class correspondent to the much disliked “class contributor.”

Then things got worse. Class contributors were ordered to file 200 word contributions that follow a rigid format (“Think of your Class Column as a personal essay about a topic of interest to your class,” stipulated the memo). Worse: they were told that only a maximum of 24 class columns would actually run in the magazine. The rejects will be relegated to a website (which of course puts older alums who may not be ‘Net savvy at a sharp disadvantage — but that wasn’t considered, apparently).

Keeping in mind that this means dozens of class columns would be put on the Web, with little or no readership, the memo breezily presented this decision as engraved in stone, no comments invited. “For each edition of Rutgers Magazine, we will choose up to 24 Class Columns for the print magazine and publish the remaining columns in a special section of our Alumni Relations website.”

Even so, all of this might have been acceptable to the class contributors — barely — but what apparently pushed many over the brink was a pervasive high-handedness evidenced by magazine staff and vice president Thornton.

As one longtime class correspondent wrote in an email: “It is difficult enough to come up with material for class columns under the old format. Trying to come up with a ‘subject of interest’ for the class and then maybe see it printed == guess I really don’t have time to play that game.”

As another alum said about the Varga memo: “Basically she tried to treat all of [class correspondents] like stringers for the Star tabloid — ‘get the meat in that story or we will not run it! You won’t get paid!’ Except of course [they] are volunteers who fight an uphill battle squeezing info out of mute classmates.

Remember, class correspondents are indeed volunteers, who serve the university out of an abiding affection for their time on the banks. They do not deserved to be pushed around and disregarded — but apparently in the new math of the McCormick administration alumni really just do not matter. That is indeed curious, what with state contributions to the budget dwindling, but the problem with alums, from McCormick’s perspective, is that too many just are obstreperous and cantankerous…so off with their heads, kill their columns, silence the lot.

But many alums are telling us that this year they will keep their wallets shut when Rutgers come calling in its annual fundraising appeal. Maybe that gives them the last laugh, as McCormick-Thornton and the rest of the Old Queens mandarins fiddle as Rutgers plummets yet deeper into disrepair and academic disrepute.


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