“Blame it on McCormick”

September 4, 2008

That’s what this article says.  It goes on: “Many fans felt ill-will about the loss blaming the administration for the lack of a good football team.

Many are saying Rutger’s President Richard McCormick spent way too much on Stadium expansion. The stadium expanison was a $102 million stadium expansion project, which has increased the stadium’s seating capacity to nearly 56,000.

Some feel that the president should have spent it on Rutger’s team.”

We’re not sure we agree with any of that but we do find it funny because now Slick McCormick and Mulcahy III are getting blamed for the inadequacies of a football team that is inadequate as vividly demonstrated by the trouncing by Fresno State.

Even homer Tom Luicci in the Ledger dissed the program:

“Teddy Dellaganna was solid in his debut as Rutgers’ punter yesterday.

There. That pretty much covers all.

Well, except for the record Rutgers set: the fastest any team has ever deflated a promising season.”

Greedy Greg Schiano gets the third highest base pay in college football, per USA Today (sort by salary) and yet he is a coach with exactly one quality win in the past year.  About the only big win in recent memory has been at the bargaining table with Mulcahy III, who really oughtn’t leave house without a fool’s cap on his head.

Face it: Rutgers without Ray Rice is a very mediocre team that plays boring football.

Even rabid fans are ripping into Schiano; booster message boards have devolved into civil wars pitting the pro- and anti- sides in spitting contests.

ESPN’s Ivan Maisel has this to say: “Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano produced the sizzle, thanks to a 9-0 start in 2006. He has led the Scarlet Knights out of what had been a spectacularly unsuccessful existence….

Since that start in 2006, when Rutgers climbed to No. 7 in the polls, Schiano has been courted by Alabama, Miami and Michigan. And since that start, Rutgers’ record has been 10-8, including 1-5 against ranked teams. Those records include the 24-7 loss at home to Fresno State on Monday.”

Watch for worse.  This is a team and a coach that, experts agree, will come in 7th in the 8 team Big East.  And that is a $2 million man?  That is a product that warrants a $100+ million stadium expansion?  Investors in stadium bonds ought to ask Mulcahy III to throw in fool’s caps for them with purchase.  They will need the hat when the half-empty stadium goes belly up on the repayment plan.

In the Targum, alumnus Josh Ontell (onetime class president), writes: “big time athletics has bought Rutgers a whole lot of nothing. But the real shame is that the money wasted could have been used to improve Rutgers’ infrastructure or boost its miniscule academic budget. Rutgers has half a billion dollars in deferred maintenance. Staff members are being laid off. Eight hundred course sections were cut. It seems everywhere you look Rutgers is hemorrhaging cash. But we always seem to have enough money for the football program.”

Indeed, a little music for McCormick and Mulcahy to enjoy as their season of discontent worsens.

Now laugh at Sheneman’s skewering of RU leadership in this Thursday funny.

Remind us: did McCormick and Mulcahy III say anything about turning the school into a statewide laughingstock?

With them driving this bus, here is the ride we can expect.


Scrutinizing Rutgers Football

September 2, 2008

Now the AP has moved a story about the Schianogate scandals that threaten to destroy what little reputation Rutgers has left.  The reporter quotes Professor Wm. Dowling: “Rutgers is well on the way to becoming what students call a school of last resort,” said William C. Dowling, a professor of English. “That is death to a school of Rutgers’ history, stature and tradition. And sports have been entirely responsible for the damage.”

Ouch.  And it gets worse.  Dozens of newspapers across the country have picked up the AP story, where they read this: “critics note that Rutgers’ place in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings has been slipping. In the latest edition, it was 24th among public universities, down from 16th in 1998.”

Ouch again.  The more money that goes into football, the less is left for academics and the proof of that is in the steady rating decline during the Slick McCormick-Mulcahy III era of sports first.

Meantime, and despite the many millions spent on football, Rutgers opened its season yesterday with a loss characterized by clueless play and clueless coaching.  The Ledger’s Steve Politi nicely sums up how bad the afternoon was here.  He writes: “those $650 seats in the luxury suites might be landing on eBay in record numbers, because unless something changes, this season is going nowhere.”

McCormick and Mulcahy III repeatedly tell us bigtime football will bring good press to Rutgers.  Indeed.  Rutgers will kick itself in the morning.

As Paul Franklin wrote in Gannett, “This is a program that is supposed to be on the way up, a program that plans on buying so it no longer has to rent. The rent was due Monday. How embarrassing.”

Which brings us back to the reckless, foolhardy, stupid stadium expansion where another $100 million, give or take, apparently will be poured into building 14,000 new seats which no one will want. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, Rutgers Stadium will stand half-empty for the Army game as fan dissatisfaction erupts into booing and widespread rejection of an inferior sports product – albeit an expensive product that shows little payback.  As the elder Richard McCormick suggested to the New York Times 10 years ago, this is no place for small time college football. “Rutgers could have trouble making money on sports because of its location, said Richard McCormick, the university historian. With the New York Giants, the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles nearby, New Jersey residents are less likely to attend college football games, he said.”

Meantime, Class of 1970 alumnus Doug Remer (a Florida reverend) has a poignant look at the cut Olympic sports in today’s Targum.  Read it for a glimpse of what Rutgers could be, should be.


Schianogate: “An Affront to us all”

July 25, 2008

The Asbury Park Press editorial opens with a slashing lead:

“Rutgers University’s under-the-radar deals to boost football coach Greg Schiano’s compensation — which already included $1.6 million in base pay — were an affront to every state taxpayer and university student.

The reaction to this week’s disclosure of the contract changes by the Star-Ledger added insult to injury. Schiano basically shrugged his shoulders. Athletic Director Robert Mulcahy remained uncomfortably silent. And university President Richard McCormick offered weak apologies.”

The Press of Atlantic City joins in: “There is such a thing as going too far. Rutgers is there. The taxpayer-funded state university’s attempt to build a national football dynasty has, to borrow a phrase, jumped the shark.”

The Bergen Record raises its voice: “Recently, there was a loud outcry from Governor Corzine and pretty much every elected official in New Jersey about the reported $740,000 retirement payout to Keansburg schools Superintendent Barbara Trzeszkowski.

We agree the payout was outrageous. But if Trzeszkowski’s severance package was outrageous, why isn’t Schiano’s annual compensation?”

That makes seven major New Jersey newspapers that have editorialized against Schianogate, the cover-ups, the greed and deception that have emerged as the hallmarks of athletic director Mulcahy III’s rule at Rutgers.

Meantime, In These Times, in a piece about what ails higher education in general, takes time to highlight Rutgers: “In New Jersey, the highest-paid public employee is Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano, who grossed nearly $1.8 million in 2007, including an $800,000 interest-free home loan that the university agreed to pay for, according to a February 2008 article in the local Courier-Post newspaper. Schiano amassed this exorbitant salary while other sports programs — not to mention courses and academic resources — continue to be slashed.”

And the count of newspapers covering Schianogate continues to soar. Way to go, Messrs. Mulcahy and McCormick. You have succeeded in making Rutgers nationally recognized as a low-brow sports factory with an administration so besotted with the odor of jock straps that it has turned a coach with a lifetime losing record into one of the sport’s highest paid.

It is time for the legislature to investigate the secret deals, the hidden payments, and who knows what else that the reign of Mulcahy III is making Rutgers famous for.

And it is time for the 70 year-old Mulcahy III to retire. He clearly is out of touch — out of touch with the state’s struggling taxpayers, with the crumbling of academic standards at Rutgers, and with the voluminous literature that demonstrates football is unlikely to do anything good for Rutgers.

We don’t need a $130+ million stadium expansion. We need truth, honesty, full disclosure — those are what universities are here to promote. Not the boozy, brainless Saturdays that Mulcahy, McCormick, et. al. want to put at the core of the Rutgers experience.


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.


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.


McCormick’s Learning Curve

May 22, 2008

It seems plain: Dick McCormick is a slow learner. Just as Rutgers now is mired in contretemps over the wanton waste of taxpayer dollars to fund lavish follies at bowl games – so exactly the same scenario played out at the University of Washington when McCormick was president. That triggered a state ethics investigation that prodded the university to spell out, in detail, who could swill from this particular pork barrel. Read the details in this Seattle Times story.

In that sorry case, the university even was forced to reimburse the state’s ethics board for the costs of the investigation.

Curiously enough, just as Rutgers has lost money on its bowl appearances, Washington managed to lose money on its 2000 Rose Bowl appearance: “The UW spent $1.45 million on the Rose Bowl trip, about $1.3 million of which was paid for by the Pacific-10 Conference, which invited the Huskies to the game,” according to the Seattle Times. Fancy that: money gets lost even on the biggest bowl appearances!

Those losses came because McCormick apparently invited his in-laws, many spouses, random politicos — and even picked up the tab for Disneyland visits. Talk about pirates of Puget Sound!

What is stopping Trenton? We need a full-on investigation of Rutgers’ wasteful and thoughtless expenditures in connection with all three money-losing bowl appearances — and we need an apology to the university’s students who will see classes canceled in the fall, classes that could have been held if the money hadn’t been squandered on football and bread and circuses for hangers-on.

And we need an apology to the state’s tax-payers who, ultimately, are picking up the tab for Mulcahy’s Folly. It’s time to halt this expensive and mindless pursuit of big-time sports. There just is no more public money to pour down that particular sinkhole.


The Collapse of Standards at Rutgers

May 20, 2008

The numbers don’t lie and they vividly show how far academic standards at Rutgers have collapsed. In 1997, USNews & World Reports pegged Rutgers as the 45th best university in the country. In 2007, ten years and millions of dollars poured into the football sinkhole later, Rutgers had tumbled to #60, where it is tied with Texas A&M, it is six spots worse than Pepperdine, eight spots worse than Syracuse.

Just a decade ago, Rutgers had reason to dream big, to hope to become one of the nation’s leading research institutions. Hah! Today’s Rutgers is fighting off Texas A & M.

As Rutgers fell 15 spots, most other universities moved very little in the rankings. Illinois, for instance, moved from #50 to #41. Wisconsin went from #41 to #34. Univ Calif at Irvine went from #37 to #44. No top 50 school in 1997 moved as many rungs, up or down, as Rutgers did in the decade that followed. Which shows how stark the rot at Rutgers is.

There is no real end to this decay in sight. Funding for academics at Rutgers keeps getting slashed by the state, the McCormick administration is unpersuasive in its appeals to private donors, and — basically — Rutgers has fallen from the “public Ivy” vision of President Ed Bloustein into the mediocrity that is the blurry McCormick vision.

Who is kidding whom? Rutgers is getting worse and worse. That is the truth, it is painful, but it is reality. And the recent NCAA research makes clear that football is not a highway to prosperity, it is not the panacea that will end this misery for Rutgers. What is profoundly sad is that, apparently, no one in Old Queens has a plan for putting Rutgers on sounder scholarly footing — if they do, they are staying silent because we have not heard word one about how to heal Rutgers’ many ills. Not one word.


Stop Hiding the Financial Truth About College Athletics

May 19, 2008

Stunning” — that is Indian University professor Murray Sperber’s pithy summation of the depth of the financial losses associated with college athletics, per the recent NCAA document, “2004-06 NCAA Revenue and Expenses of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Program Report.” The fantasy is over: big-time college sports lose big-time money. Period. End of story. And that hurts education. As Sperber writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The reality, which the NCAA now acknowledges, is that institutional subsidies for intercollegiate athletics usually come out of funds that could go to academic purposes.”

Says Sperber: “The seas of athletics-department red ink are growing as fast as the oceans are rising from melting polar ice caps.”

Question: why hasn’t Rutgers reported on exactly how much money it loses on football?

Why are these numbers top secret?

There is no doubt that Rutgers has lost tens of millions of dollars on football in the past two decades — but are the losses even steeper?

As a first step in bringing transparency to Rutgers finances, McCormick-Mulcahy owe it to the university community — and to the state’s taxpayers who are left holding this expensive sack — to honestly report the scope of the losses on football.

Step two is to present a coherent plan for ending those losses — but our advice is, don’t hold your breath on that one. There is no plan. Not even a dream. The losses are forever…just as Rutgers’ academics continue to plummet.

Thanks to a reader for sending up a pointer to Sperber’s column. Tips are appreciated. Send them here.


Focus on LaRue

May 9, 2008

A reader pointed us to this pr write-up about Rutgers vp Jeannine LaRue in an internal organ, Rutgers Focus.

We’ve expressed skepticism about how LaRue, a onetime deputy chief of staff for Gov. Corzine with no prior ties to Rutgers or to higher education for that matter, might earn her $250,000 pay in a job post that had been vacant since 1997. We explored this topic here, here, and here. Basic thrust of the argument is that we were puzzled by Rutgers’ commitment of some $589,000 to fund an office that apparently had not been needed in a decade.

Of course there is no direct tie but it interested us when last week another Corzine deputy chief of staff, Javier Inclan, resigned. Mr. Inclan testified in a corruption trial about passing envelopes stuffed with cash to Hudson County pols and, well, you have to read this stuff to grasp the quality of Corzine’s hires.

Back to Ms. LaRue and the FOCUS article. Indeed, we are touched that she is raising two grandchildren. We are stupefied that she has 17,000 contacts in her BlackBerry. But most of all we finished the article still uncertain exactly what Ms. LaRue does to earn her keep.

By all means, anybody in the know, please do tell us.


No Confidence in McCormick

May 9, 2008

A hard hitting guest blog calls for a faculty vote of no confidence in President Dick McCormick. Read on for the “why” of this plea:

“Click on the attached article from Inside Higher Ed to see how the West Virginia State university faculty gave an overwhelming vote of no confidence to its university president, calling for his resignation, because he knowingly issued a false diploma to a politically connected grad student.

“Should the Rutgers University Faculty Senate do anything less for its president, Dick McCormick, who knowingly condones the admission of academically unqualified athletes, including at least one who submitted false admissions documents.

“Is Rutgers prepared to become the focus of a national academic/athletic scandal such as has enveloped too many universities, including the University of Washington which has received damage nationally to its
reputation as a result of McCormick’s knowing actions or inactions during his tenure there?

Rutgers has certainly embarked on that path, but it’s not too late for standards oriented faculty and alumni to change the leadership and course of the school.”

Karl Engelman, MD (RC’55)


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