Rutgers To Stadium Expansion: Drop Dead

“It’s a nightmare,” one Rutgers insider told Gannett reporter Christine Sparta. She also reports this: “‘The stadium is way behind schedule. The stadium is supposed to be completed by September 2009, and they haven’t laid down a brick yet,’ said another insider who speculated about a hefty $150 million price tag.” And there has been no progress in raising the $30 million in private funding needed for the expansion when the budget was a more modest $100+ million. Upsizing that private contribution target to try to balance this budgetary mess would make as much sense as balancing a household budget on the assumption of a Megamillions win. Rutgers football fans just have not opened their wallets to support this project — presumably because (although they can be vocal in their vapidity) there just aren’t very many diehards.

The state is plummeting into a deep recession. Rutgers football is an unproven attraction (will fans use $4/gallon gasoline to drive to see the Scarlet Knights, a second-tier football team on its better days?). The coach has a lifetime losing record. Construction costs — for materials primarily — are multiplying. New Jersey’s public budget is in chaos. What started as a risky, speculative deal a year ago, now — clearly — is a sucker’s play. Of course the university’s powers — Slick McCormick, Sweaty Mulcahy III — insist the expansion will go ahead, albeit in a “scaled down” version. Right.

What they don’t tell us is in what century this expansion will occur. It likely won’t be this one. We know that much.

It’s time to officially declare the Rutgers football fantasy over and done.

Even fans of the expansion are squabbling as blaming fingers begin to point and the hunt commences for a fall guy (Mulcahy III, is that a bullseye on your back?). Gov. Seatbelt Corzine is telling people he hears even the Phase I expansion — luxury boxes — won’t be ready at the season’s start. Mulcahy III disagrees. Or so reports the Ledger.

Newspapers across the country are diving on this story.  As word percolates among Rutgers football’s recent commits, how fast do you think they will begin to decommit?  Frankly, they would be crazy not to open their ears to recruiters from other programs because the message is clear: the Rutgers bigtime sports bubble is bursting.

Our bets:

* Sweaty Mulcahy III, at 70 years of age, soon will announce his retirement. He reportedly was booted out of a job before (as CEO of the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority). He knows how to make an exit.

* Phase II of the stadium expansion will be postponed “indefinitely”

* Together, those steps will represent a de facto downgrading of the Rutgers football program.

We’ll cheer all of that! In fact our party mood is so festive we just may crack open a keg at the Rutgers 1000 world headquarters and break into singing On the Banks!

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14 Responses to Rutgers To Stadium Expansion: Drop Dead

  1. John Lister says:

    Let’s be fair. Newspapers around the country aren’t really diving on the story. The AP had a feed (which probably came from the Ledger) and that turned up on the web sites of newspapers as an easy story. We don’t know whether the information was sufficiently important to the readers in Des Moines for it to make it to the print edition.

    Interestingly enough, one place where the news hasn’t been reported is on the official stadium expansion page, (nor is it in the news on the Scarlet Knights page (though there are plenty of photographs of the construction so far.

    No news either on bond sales, so we don’t know what interest rate Rutgers will be paying for the $70M. I hope it’s not too expensive, since we’re committed now!

  2. BigZoffdaMan says:

    The fatcats all get their seats and cozy quarters first and the rest of the fans will wind up paying for all of them. The priority was always that group and at everyone else’s expense. Cancelled sports programs,increased tution and ticket prices and donations, all to watch Morgan State and sip cocktails. Where’s the auditor on this charade? Whaere’s the state overseer? Where’s the AG? We’re kind of new at this isn’t going to cut it as an excuse this time.

  3. Grumpy alum says:

    My question would be, where’s the sitting president’s ass on a plate? That this enormous $100 million dollar gamble even got this far should be grounds for immediate termination of contract. I mean, has the College Avenue greening even started yet? Is it still going to happen? While Rutgers has ploughed ahead with every last cent it can throw at football, C/A seems to have been quietly placed on the ‘do later’ list.

  4. JCO says:

    I never heard of your org before today. You are so off the mark…kinda reminds me of the “nattering nabobs of negativity” that a terrible VP once made famous. Not unlike him you will probably follow a similar path.

  5. John Lister says:

    To Grumpy Alum:

    I’m of two minds about the College Avenue “greening”. One is being thankful that it didn’t happen and looks like it’s not going to happen. It was completely insensitive to the character of College Ave and would have been a blight on New Brunswick.

    On the other hand, several million dollars were spent on studies, drawings, plans, models, exhibitions, competitions, etc, etc, etc. How many years support of Crew, Swimming, Fencing etc, would this have represented? How many current buildings could have been renovated with the money?

    And the campus with the most pressing development needs is Livingston. It needs to be turned from a 1960s monstrosity into a human-sized set of facilities, mainly by banishing the parking lots to elsewhere and constructing buildings much more densely, so that the campus becomes friendly and walkable.

    But I agree that the President and BoG really should resign over the stadium disaster. Who remembers back in January that both McCormick and Mulcahy promised us that this wouldn’t cost us a thing. Well, it’s now July, construction is under way and we have no bonds and no donations. So is the tooth fairy paying?

  6. Grumpy alum says:

    John,

    I didn’t like the architecture – and from what I understand, few did – but this inital phase doesn’t include buildings. It’s focused on making that horrible, trash-filled street into a properly landscaped, pedestrian-friendly area. Regardless of what built structures may follow, I certainly support this part of it. College Ave as it has been ever since my day is a disgrace to the university.

  7. Chuck says:

    As a NJ native, Michigan alum and current Rutgers Grad Student, I’ve watching the stadium situation with interest. Here’s my take. Rutgers is either not getting enough alumni contributions for their stadium expansion or they’re not charging enough for the current seats. Or maybe both. Michigan is undergoing a $226 million dollar expansion and money does not seem to be an object for them (“The expected cost of $226 million will be funded through private donations and Athletic Department resources, primarily the revenues generated by the new seating.”) The key here is that Rutgers must fill the new seats, or charge more for the present seats in order to generate more revenue. That is not totally out of the question, as Rutgers still has a season ticket wait-list. They can also charge for student tickets. I don’t think the stadium expansion is over. The ways around the current problems seem to be easily fixable. Also, state monies for the stadium don’t seem totally out of the question.

    As a college football fan, I can tell you that Rutgers is very close. There is a reason why Schiano changed his mind literally the last second on the Michigan opening (there are also reports he tried to get back into the mix after changing his mind, but that’s another story). Rutgers is competing in one of, of not the weakest BCS conference in the country. Schiano’s main competition, Rich Rodriguez, is now gone (took Michigan job). Louisville seems to be on the decline after Petrino left. Pitt is doing well with recruiting but they don’t have a good Xs and Os coach. Syracuse used to be good but they’re now a joke. So the door is wide open for Rutgers. And the recruits know that too. With the current situation, Rutgers is only a couple of good recruiting classes away from a BCS bowl, and potentially many more after that. With no established teams in the Big East, Rutgers only needs to hang on to a few recruits in order to be competitive. With the cost much lower for Rutgers simply because of low competition, my assumption is that state monies will be used to fund the stadium expansion. Whether you like this or not, that is the future I envision.

    Schiano had better deliver though. If he can’t win in the current Big East, Rutgers football will lose a lot of money in the future. But the admin is so invested in this I don’t see them backing down right now.

  8. Grumpy alum says:

    Here’s a question for you, Chuck. Why should my niece, who’s a sophomore at Rutgers, have to put up with what she describes as a “falling apart campus”, so her fees can fund this “shot at the Big East” you describe? Rutgers was creaky in my day; it’s much worse now. Do you support this gamble on football, given that if it fails, students at Rutgers will be the ones who suffer?

  9. RUSupporter says:

    Grumpy, first of all as a student at Rutgers I can say that your niece is grossly exaggerating, secondly, this “shot at the Big East” costs a fraction of a percent of the budget cuts we’ve dealt with over the past couple years, thus making it a poor scapegoat for Rutgers’s lack of money.

  10. Chuck says:

    Grumpy,

    You raise some valid points in your posts, but I think the RU 1000 is operating under a sort of delusion that Rutgers can quickly retain its academic statute. It can’t. Not without alumni support. Not with state support.

    How is Rutgers suppose to become a “public ivy” in the midst of state cuts, poor perception and low alumni support rates? My alma mater, Michigan, has suffered enormous cuts in state support that are unlikely to end anytime soon (incidentally, this has led some to suggest Michigan should just turn private). But the school conquered those challenges by easily raising $2.5 billion from alums (ahead of schedule, see http://www.giving.umich.edu/campaign/news/current/052107_goal.htm). On top of that, they are continuing the campaign. Now, the AD is asking for alumni support to finance a $226 million dollar stadium renovation. Do you think any of these benchmarks are even remotely possible at Rutgers? If not, then how can Rutgers regain its academic standing? You can’t get something for nothing.

    At the very least, a successful football program will eliminate the stigma attached to Rutgers. Someone told me when I was applying to colleges that there’s this building at Rutgers called the “hall of broken dreams,” or something to that affect. And I admit, when I visited, I was less than impressed with the facilities and the atmosphere as a whole. A successful football program, even if it only has a chance of winning, will at least create some pride that will make it more difficult to cut the Rutgers budget. You might not like the idea of the state stabilizing or increasing funds because New Jersey views Rutgers as a point of pride because of the football team, but I’ll take anything at this point.

    I’m a Rutgers Grad Student now. I have a personal stake in Rutgers. I want to see Rutgers succeed. I love my home state. But I think in order for that to happen, we need to acknowledge some realities.

  11. Grumpy alum says:

    Chuck,

    A thoughtful post. However, we diverge on matters of substance here, and best that I should explain my objections. Your comment that “a successful football program will eliminate the stigma attached to Rutgers”, while hopeful, seems pure pie in the sky, given the seriousness of the situation. As I’m sure you’re aware, there is utterly no guarantee that this influx of cash will result in a successful or “big time” football program. You may hope it will, but the fact that this remains only hope and not fact demonstrates the scope of this gamble. That it is a gamble that is drawing money from academics to put on the roulette wheel of football success is something I would hope you would acknowledge. Furthermore, I would argue that for a significant portion of NJ’s bright students – perhaps women mostly – football success combined with a deteriorating academic profile would just lend Rutgers the additional stigma of being a dumbed-down football school. Under Bloustein, this school looked towards a future of being a world-class public university, as good as any of them. This dream sank when Lawrence was hired by the BoG, on (and I have reliable sources for this) a quid-pro-quo for bringing “big time” football to Rutgers. After close to 20 years of promises about what football will do for Rutgers whilst the university plumets down the rankings, you will forgive my cynicism about yet more of them.

    Certainly, it would be wonderful if we were Michigan with its deep alumni pockets. But we’re not. Whilst I share your frustrations about NJ’s criminal neglect of Rutgers, I see a desperately underfunded university taking money from academics and redirecting it to football in still-increasing amounts. To my mind, regaining the academic standing of Rutgers starts with a simple step. Making excellence in academics the unambiguous first priority of the university. it has been, again, close to 20 years since that was the case at Rutgers. And how have we done in that time? These last two decades have been, quite simply, the worst in Rutgers’ history.

    As for Rutgers 1000, I don’t see any delusion in arguing and fighting for a better Rutgers. For me, it’s incredibly heartening that the direction of Rutgers as an instiution still arouses passion and real debate. When this subsides, we’re in trouble. To me, it is students like these, not the sort that comment here that they care more about a decent football program than the English Department, who are the real patriots of this university.

    I should mention two things. Among my alumni circle, opinion on football is split about 50/50. Yet the unease, even among supporters is growing, especially as regards to the stadium gamble. One thing that is not split is the sense of immense disappointment in Richard McCormick. We thought he would be a savior after Lawrence, and it turns out he was dumped on us by wiser heads at UW. Somehow, Rutgers always seems to get the ones nobody else wants.

  12. bronxboy says:

    Grumpy is right as usual. For the last 30 years RU has tried to “be like Michigan” and failed miserably. Besides, Michigan is now embroiled in its own academic fraud scandal involving its stellar “student athletes.” Frankly, it’s sickening and time to stop.

    RU should endeavor to be its own model, the one it embodied with great pride and distinction for over 100 years before embarking on this wasteful venture into big time football. Rutgers should disengage from the corrupt world of commercialized big time athletics and immediately withdraw from Division IA football. With such unmistakeable evidence of RU’s recommitment to academics the best students will once again return to the university. Beat Lehigh!

  13. Tom Arena says:

    I just can’t believe what I’m reading here, a bunch pinhead alumni actually rooting for the RU football team and program to fail. It’s as if you have a hatred for college athletics, or what I really think, you have an insane jealousy. A successful football program is a huge boost to any unversity. It also becomes a symbol of the state, something residents can be proud of. I never went to Rutgers, but have become a huge fan and supporter of RU football. I have more pride in that team and University than any of you. Shameful, I can’t believe what I’m reading. Your real complaints should be the tuition the school charges. At least in terms of a stadium expansion, we know what the money is being spent on. Otherwise, those tuition increases are going into some kind of black hole, never to be seen again. Forget what Greg Schiano makes, he’s at least earning his money. What are all these useless administrators making, and wht is their contribution to the state? Schiano, he’s made 3 straight bowl games, winning two of them. And this year? All home games are sold out! That must really tick you off that despite your hatred of football and college athletics, they really are succeeding! A big season will once again guarentee a stadium expansion, and who knows, maybe a larger one! Go ahead, root against this team, but it certanly wont stop them.

  14. [...] From Rutgers To Stadium Expansion: Drop Dead, 2008/07/10 at 11:20 PM [...]

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