Rutgers Rot

September 14, 2008

The Ledger’s Fran Wood documents the rot that is eating away Rutgers’ academics in this piece.  She writes: “academics are falling at the same time the school is spending millions to upgrade its football program and facilities.”  In the piece she documents — in vivid detail — what happens to a university that has a half billion dollars worth of deferred mainenance.  It isn’t pretty.  She writes: “if a school is willing to indulge in big-time bonding, which is precisely what Rutgers has done for its stadium expansion, you’d think some cooler head would have reminded the school’s board that Rutgers’ raison d’être — i.e., education — should be given a higher priority.”

Meantime, the Gannett central Jersey papers speculate that perhaps Rutgers’ BoG — in its zeal for closed door meetings and secrecy — is violating the state’s Open Meeting Acts.  We don’t know about that — we think the BoG meets in private because it likes to hide the depths of its stupidity and incompetence.  Wouldn’t you?  But then…by that token…perhaps Greedy Greg Schiano’s Stumblers ought to play in private because, despite the millions poured into that “program,” it remains a Big East bottom feeder.

Sigh.

Back to Gannett.  “So many of the university’s decisions of late — specifically those related to sports in general and to big-time football in particular — haven’t exactly been afforded a vigorous or thorough public review or, if they have been discussed at length with the university community, in many cases the belief persists that public opinion was ignored.”

The stadium expansion of course is a prime for instance.  The boosters — for whom the stadium is being expanded — care so little about the program that all they could donate is $90,000…against a $30 million goal.  The team is so bad the season ticket waiting list — which prompted pulling the trigger on the expansion — will evaporate by season’s end.  And yet Rutgers insiders keep talking as though bonding $100+ million with no rational repayment scheme makes sense.  Does Rutgers offer remedial classes in leadership?  

Bottomline, says Gannett, “Rutgers’ ruling body has managed to sow the seeds of outright distrust. “

Indeed.

Which bring us to the Bergen Record’s harsh editorial about athletics at Rutgers.  The Record wants to know why the six Olympic sports were killed — and yet money for football gushes.  It writes: “In recent months it’s become increasingly clear that there are major problems with the funding for the football stadium expansion. The university has also been criticized over other aspects of the football budget, including high salaries for coaches.

In fact, the state comptroller has already begun an investigation into Rutgers’ sports finances, including spending for the stadium expansion. “

Which brings us to the deliberations that led to athletic director Mulcahy III’s agreeing to roughly a $2 million annual pay packet for Greedy Greg — despite the fact that Greedy has a lifetime losing record and even onetime fans now admit he is clueless about coaching.  How many part-time lecturers could be put back on the payroll if Schiano’s pay were cut back to the $250,000, max, that his performance warrants?  How many more classes could be scheduled?  

It is obvious: Mulcahy III needs to be fired, preferably within days.

And exactly that may happen.  Rumors are circulating that Trenton’s warlords are embarrassed about the performance of the Rutgers football team on national TV.  Two blow-out losses have made it untenable for all but the most jocksniffing pols to put any weight behind the stadium expansion.  It will be “delayed,” Mulcahy will “retire,” and the Rutgers stadium will stand empty by the Army game.  You read it all here, as early as March 16th: “Our predictions: there will be a sharp fall-off in the season ticket waiting list (we expect it to evaporate) and, by season end, there will be many rows of empty seats (the 11-22 Army game will be lucky to draw 20,000).”

Now mull on the fans for whom so many dollars are spent by Rutgers. Not only is there the Rutgers Finger Effect, there are loud complaints — by fans! — about other fans doing unspeakable things.  Like urinating on rows of bleacher seats mid-game.  Read it all in this thread.


“Misplaced spending priorities”

August 9, 2008

Now the Philly Inky has joined the pile of newspapers recently editorializing against Slick McCormick, Mulcahy III, Greedy Greg Schiano, et. al. Rutgers, states the Inky, has “misplaced spending priorities.”

Says the Inky: “Rutgers University President Richard L. McCormick gets high marks for returning a $100,000 bonus to help students pay their growing tuition.

The goodwill gesture may be lost on financially strapped students facing an 8.5 percent tuition hike at one of the most expensive public universities in the country.”

The Inky also points out:

* “Rutgers’ finances also have come under intense scrutiny after recent published reports detailing questionable deals designed to grow the football program.”

* “A plan to raise $30 million in private funds to help pay for the 14,000-seat stadium expansion has fallen way short. Now, the state comptroller plans to investigate the school’s spending practices.”

Meantime, over at the Star Ledger, Rutgers sports scribe Tom Luicci has the news that Rutgers has inked an expensive deal to play Kent State at home in 2012. Kent State demanded — and will get — a jaw-dropping $750,000 guaranteed payment to travel to Piscataway. Where will that money come from. Per Luicci: “the school expects to have some of the cost defrayed by the expanded capacity of Rutgers Stadium, which will be at 56,000 then.”

Excuse us, Luicci. We know you could not spell “verify” if spotted the consonants, but last we looked, Rutgers was very, very far short of the funding needed to proceed with the Phase 2 expansion which is where those seats get added. We know what Mulcahy III wants you to write but reporting, by definition, requires you to do a bit of verification. The $30 million private fundraising is a bust, as reported by your own newspaper. The construction estimates for the stadium have exploded well beyond the original $102 million. And now 10 newspapers have editorialized against RU, exactly none have come out in support of the school’s extravagant football fantasies. From our seats, we fully expect the BoG to announce within weeks that Phase 2 will be “delayed” — which is Raritan speak for terminated.

Mulcahy III’s spinmeisters must be singing that expansion tune exceptionally loudly. The Ohio press also is picking up on it. Reports Recordpub.com: “Rutgers will pay KSU $750,000 in 2012 to play a football game at its soon-to-be renovated stadium. That’s an unusually big payday to play at Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights apparently can afford to pay larger guarantees thanks to a $102-million renovation that will increase the capacity of their Piscataway, N.J., stadium from 41,500 to 56,000.” Talk about flimflam accounting. Mulcahy III apparently is “balancing” his budget with seats that have not been built and which are unlikely to be built. Just amazing, but would you expect otherwise from a lifelong Trenton hack? This is a state that is strangling in its own debt and Mulcahy III is a poster child for why we are in the sorry fiscal shape we are.


Royalty at Rutgers

July 23, 2008

The Daily Record editorial is one we wish we had written. Out of the gate, the lead sentence grabs you: “Why does a college football coach deserve to be treated like the emperor of a small country?”

The Record goes on to point out that, even worse, Rutgers — the state university — tried to hide at least part of the payments (over $2 million!) to coach Schiano, he of the lifetime losing record.

It’s time, time to declare Rutgers’ foray into “bigtime football” (well, in Schiano’s case, “middling time football”) over. It’s a failed experiment that now threatens to corrupt the very soul of the university’s ethics. Blow the whistle, this game is over.


Schiano’s Secret Money

July 22, 2008

At the very same time that Rutgers is imposing dramatic increases in tuition and fees on the students who are the poor saps stuck with the tab, the athletic department has found a backdoor route to funnel an extra $250,000 to Coach Greg Schiano, the now $2 million man, reports the Star Ledger.

What’s staggering is that real teachers are facing layoffs as the school wrestles with a reduced state budget — and yet there is no end to the good times for Schiano, the coach with a lifetime losing record. Talk about an overpaid under-achiever!

Incredibly, the $250,000 was paid to a shell corporation created by Schiano, presumably as a sponge to soak up off the book Rutgers monies.

It’s not just us who are stunned by these developments. Reports the Ledger, in a story headlined, “Part of Rutgers’ deal with coach was disguised:” “The $250,000 payment was questioned earlier this year by university auditors who criticized the athletic department, saying the way the deal was structured showed a lack of transparency.”

Rutgers leadership, for its part, apparently feels no shame for its conniving. Reports the Ledger: “Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy said the university was simply ‘being a little resourceful’ in the way it structured the deal.”

And there’s more: “The additional compensation was one of three contract changes not made public last year,” reports the Ledger. Classrooms are decaying, teachers are facing layoffs, academic standards keep eroding — but the money gusher for a mediocre football program remains on full.

What else is Mulcahy III hiding from the university community?

Somehow we don’t think the students who are forced to scramble to come up with still more money to pay for a diminished Rutgers education will be amused by Mulcahy III’s “resourcefulness.”

Rutgers’ reputation, meantime, lies in tatters as reports of this Schiano-Mulcahy III financial chicanery burn across the news wires. From Wausau WI to Spokane WA to Long Island, the Rutgers name today means dirty little accounting tricks, nothing more.

University president Slick McCormick, for his part, shrugs all this off, Reports the Ledger: “If you want to have an outstanding program — and it was determined a long time ago that Rutgers wanted to do that — then you have to pay the price,” he said. “You’ve got to pay to play, pardon the New Jersey expression.”

Does this also mean Slick McCormick will condone under the table payments to football players because, well, other schools do it? Talk about a slippery slope. Except Slick has fallen down it very hard, into the gutter of life.

If there was nothing wrong with the extra $250,000 payment to Schiano, why did it have to be disguised?

It is time to fire Mulcahy III. We tremble at the prospect of the additional “resourceful” actions by this AD that will be discovered in the months ahead.

And it is time to fire Slick McCormick.  His very words above demonstrate his manifold inadequacies — ethically and intellectually.  He is no leader and, at this perilous moment in its history, Rutgers needs leadership.  And that will never be Slick McCormick.


Doblin to Mulcahy: Just Stop the Stadium Expansion

July 15, 2008

Alfred Doblin, the Bergen Record editorial page editor, puts it perfectly: “Yes, there’s something to be said for determination against all odds. It’s called grit. There’s something also to be said when public money is being tossed around like a football: Stop!”

The message for Rutgers Athletic Director Mulcahy III is palpable: Wake up and smell the jockstraps! The money is not on hand to fund the reckless stadium expansion and there is no probability of finding it. None. As Doblin observes: “The Rutgers Stadium expansion sounds oddly familiar. The let’s-build-it-and-figure-out-how-we-pay-for-it-later mentality was the mantra of the now deceased Schools Construction Corp. Look where those construction-savvy officials got us today: deeper in debt.”

Read Doblin’s op-ed.

It’s a sound summary of the economic realities of the lunatic stadium expansion. The money is not on hand, football fans are not making donations, and, bottomline, the stadium expansion is nothing more than ego balm for Mulcahy III and NJ’s highest paid public employee, Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano, the man who still has a lifetime losing record. The state cannot afford this and the university — with its crumbling infrastructure and cutbacks in the education it delivers to students — ought not even contemplate it.

Rutgers spending on a stadium expansion is rather like a homeowner facing foreclosure on the family home splurging on a new convertible. It makes no sense — not intellectually, not financially, not morally.

It is time to send the bulldozers home.


A House of Cards Aflutter

July 11, 2008

Another shoe is dropping on the reckless Rutgers stadium expansion as Trenton warlord Ray Lesniak (himself a Rutgers alum) is quoted in the Star Ledger expressing profound worry about the economics: “Lesniak yesterday said if Rutgers plans to increase the overall cost of the project beyond $102 million, ‘I’d want to find out where the additional dollars are going to come from.’ He said he doubts additional money could either be found in state coffers or collected through his current fundraising campaign.”

The Ledger, meantime, reports that insiders are saying stadium construction bids came in promiscuously over budget — at least $18 million (17%) over the initial $102 million plan.

Where is that extra money coming from?

Right now, nobody even knows where the $30 million Lesniak and Gov. Seatbelt Corzine supposedly are raising in private contributions is in fact coming from. Supposedly they’ve raised less cash than you’d expect to see in a Skid Row mission collection box (thus Lesniak’s — “don’t look at me” when asked about the extra monies now needed to pursue stadium expansion).

According to reporter Pat Alex in the Bergen Record, Corzine and Lesniak have raised $250,000 of the $30 million (and keep in mind Corzine personally pledged $1 million). That’s some showing of intense fan support!

Alex also reports that Rutgers so far has spent $13 million on the stadium work done thus far — money that Rutgers is forced to borrow.

And she throws in this zinger: “‘This is a debacle; they already dug up half the place and now they find they don’t have the money for construction,’’ said the source with knowledge of the plans. He said the university went ahead with construction without firm plans or financing in place. ‘“It’s out of control,’ he said.”

What’s the likely scenario for Rutgers stadium now? Expect delay, delay, and more delay. Even sports mad Louisville has stumbled with its football stadium expansion — and that is despite a $10 million donation by the Papa Johns founder. In New Brunswick, we hear the biggest single donation so far has been 72 Miller Lite beer cans, empty but good for the recycling monies!

At Old Queens, senior administrators are apparently ducking for cover as the farcical stadium expansion plans blow up in their faces. Heads will roll, we hear, and mutterings on College Ave. say 70 year-old Sweaty Mulcahy III may be in line to take the fall. For him of course this is deja vu all over again because his dismissal from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority reportedly was triggered by chronic over-spending.

Either way — this situation will only get uglier. The $18 million excess is just round one in a state where public construction never comes in on budget. Some experts are muttering the eventual price would top $150 million, assuming Phase 2 of the expansion actually happens. Our bet is that it won’t, not with the state’s coffers already empty and Rutgers forced to lay off teachers and cancel classes just to make up the latest round of state budget cuts.

At least we are in for mirthful times. Watching Mulcahy III, Slick McCormick, and Schiano wrestling with high finance is as deep a belly laugh as watching the Three Stooges try to explain Godel’s Incompletenesss Theorems. Pass the popcorn, we can’t wait for this show to start.


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.


No $ for Art, Plenty for Football

May 3, 2008

Tell us what is right with this picture.  Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno writes that the Corzine budget may cut arts funding 100% in many cases — but then there is the case of Rutgers football, a money-losing enterprise that aspires to mediocrity and for it the checks are blank and John Q citizen is simply forced to sign.  Rutgers football loses upwards of $3 million every year and there is no end in sight.  Even President McCormick admits the likelihood of football turning a profit is slim to none: “We’re not doing this to make money,” McCormick told the Bergen Record.

Even if the reckless, cockamamie stadium expansion manages to happen, that won’t change a thing. Every dime brought in by the new seats would be needed to pay off the bonds sold to finance the project.

And then there are arts.  Last year, New Jersey awarded some $25 million to various arts groups and to fund municipal arts projects.  This is not money that is wasted.  $2 billion in economic activity resulted, per Di Ionno.

That all looks to end in Corzine’s austerity budget.

What economic good comes from Rutgers football?  Certainly it benefits Coach Schiano — now New Jersey’s highest paid public employee, on the basis of a lifetime losing record.  But who else is coming out a winner?

Not Rutgers students who, this fall, will see more classes cut and more teachers fired as Rutgers digests yet more cuts to academic budgets.

But still the money gushes on football.

Cui bono?

And so we wonder: what is right with this picture?


The Missing $30 Million

April 24, 2008

Just where is that $30 million in private contributions to build the stadium expansion coming from? A Star Ledger article says the cash is nowhere in sight.  Associate Press later moved a story that underscored the Ledger’s concerns.

Isn’t it time to pull the plug on Mulcahy’s folly?

Of course we are also waiting for the other shoe to drop, that is, for Rutgers to admit it cannot find buyers for the $70+ million in construction bonds needed to build the expansion.

That will leave students and NJ taxpayers to pick up this wasteful outlay of $100+ million — unless the plug is firmly pulled on this silly monument to Schiano’s out-sized (and under-performing) ego.  As reported by AP:

“This raises the specter that New Jersey taxpayers will be called upon to pay for the expansion, if private donations do not materialize,” said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris. “I will not support making the taxpayers bear this added burden.”

Would you commit to a $50,000 kitchen remodel without having some idea of where the money would come from? No thinking person would but thinking seems a rare talent amongst the jock-sniffing Rutgers administrators and Board of Governors.

The one BoG member who voted against the stadium expansion plan, George Zoffinger, ironically is the only one with experience manging large capital projects. As the Bergen Record quoted him:

“I would never go forward — as someone who has built $100 million buildings — with a project like this,” Zoffinger said. He said the plans didn’t allow enough wiggle room for cost overruns and that the private fund raising was by no means assured.

“You’ve got to set some priorities,” Zoffinger said. “This whole borrow, borrow, borrow has gotten New Jersey into the condition it’s in.”

Sigh. It is difficult to express exactly how reckless and foolhardy this expansion is — but the bottomline is that the money is nowhere near in hand.

Another blogger wonders how a state that borders on bankrupt and is forced to close public parks can even think about putting $100+ million into a stadium expansion. Alas, we cannot explain this, either. Nor do we know what to tell Rutgers students who, come fall, will find many classes canceled because professors had to be fired to balance Rutgers’ falling budget.

The one bright spot are the guffaws to be had reading the booster message boards as posters express shock that the citizenry isn’t tripping over themselves in haste to fund Mulcahy’s folly. These boosters apparently keep their hands firmly in their own pockets because, amidst the angst-ridden bravado, there are no pledges of big money contributions to revive this dying stadium plan.

Our favorite so far, from a poster who writes under the name AreYouNuts: Honestly, the Pennsy primary is over and there’s time and space to be filled on the airwaves and in the papers, hence, a bunch of NOTHING was put together.

F* ‘em is what I say!!”

When in doubt…curse.

Maybe that same strategy will work when the stadium contractors persist in presenting bills for work — and RU has nothing but an empty-handed one-finger salute to offer in return.

We have said it before, we will say it again: the stadium expansion — in the midst of a recession that is devastating the New Jersey economy — is so stupid it borders on criminality.

Cui bono?


Criminals on the Banks

April 18, 2008

“RU has successfully recruited athletes with criminal records before – adult criminal records, at that.”

Phil Mushnick, New York Post

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Read Mushnick’s column about Schiano, criminality, and Rutgers football.

The puzzlement is why the team still is so bad. As noted in College Football News,” After taking a step backwards in 2007, the Scarlet Knights could recede again in 2008.”


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