The stench of dying hangs heavy in the July humidity as the reckless Piscataway Rutgers Stadium expansion project crashes against the twin poles of a New Jersey public that just isn’t interested and students who are being bled dry by an administration that is Ahab-like in its futile pursuit of “bigtime” sports. Memorable moments are so plentiful we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The one stark reality: the tide has pungently shifted and New Jersey’s media are piling on the boondoggle that is the Rutgers stadium expansion project.
Let’s start with a definite (we guess) laugh — Drew Sheneman’s cartoon that shows Rutgers students lifted ever higher by rising tuition and fees…”at least they can see the stadium construction from up here!”
Our personal favorite recent quotation belongs to athletic director Mulcahy III — the same Mulcahy III who purportedly was fired by then Governor Christie Whitman because of cost-overruns and mismanagement when he headed the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority — who growled, “‘Don’t believe all the critics,’ he said. ‘I know who my critics are.’” That Nixonian moment is in a meticulous Star Ledger story that shows the “savings” associated with cutting the six Olympic sports actually have turned into big losses for Rutgers. Mulcahy, apparently, cannot add or multiply, but — again — that should come as no surprise given his history.
Mulcahy clearly is losing it as the scrutiny of his monomaniacal Rutgers tenure uncovers ever more decisions that don’t add up. More Nixonian moments from Mulcahy III arise in this recent Jersey Journal piece where, in reaction to skepticism about his stadium expansion plans, he snarled: “Let me put it this way, I am going to do this thing for $102 million,” Mulcahy said. “I’m going to have seats in the south end zone and I am going to have the scoreboard and I am going to have the club done.”
The reality is that Mulcahy III doesn’t have the money in hand for the expansion — and as the price-tag has rocketed up over $125 million he is falling ever shorter. Our bet is that soon an announcement will be made that the project is “delayed.” That is why Mulcahy III’s Crankiness Factor is soaring.
You can see the lips turning white, the sweat popping on the forehead as this 70 year-old bureaucrat whose life has been spent swilling at Trenton’s trough sees his capstone project blowing up in his face. Pretty soon we expect him to blurt out that he is retiring and we won’t have Bob Mulcahy to kick around anymore! We would feel pity for him if it weren’t the university’s academics and students that are picking up the pieces.
Which brings us to Rutgers’ suffering students. Multiple stories now are detailing that the legendary “RU Screw” is intensifying as the administration reaches deeper into the pockets of students, in part to defray the ever greater expenditures on athletics. The Daily Record reports on the impacts of higher tuition and fees here.
It gets worse: as the state cuts its support, the quality of a Rutgers education sinks ever lower. Rutgers students are paying more for much less, it’s that brutal. Gannet reports: “Every area of the university is impacted,” said Nancy Winterbauer, vice president for university budgeting at Rutgers. She said Rutgers also faces cuts in services, staff and course offerings.
Meantime, PARADE Magazine weighs in with a report, Are College Coaches Over-Paid? At $1.8 million — making him the state’s highest paid public employee, Greg Schiano — the coach with a lifetime losing record — surely is the poster child for an over-paid coach. Think about how many real teachers could be hired were Schiano sent packing — that’s around 18 full professors in, say, English or History. The Parade story includes this: “Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, says, ‘Some colleges seem more focused on beer and spectacle than on teaching and learning.’” Sound familiar?
Parade adds this: “a recent report by the NCAA suggests that college sports are, in fact, money-losing propositions. Among the 119 schools with top Division I football teams, only 19 had athletic departments that generated a profit in 2006.” Rutgers of course is not among the profitable 19. It loses money on athletics, year in, year out, and that is money that is creamed off the top of the resources available for academics. Every dime spent on athletics is money not spent on education. It really is that stark.
Add it up: there is a gusher of money for football, less and less for academics. The message has become unmistakable. Rutgers is off course, it is failing the state’s taxpayers, its businesses, and — above all — its students. But the worse it gets, the more optimistic we are. And that is because of the stench over Piscataway. As the recent flood of newspaper coverage shows: recognition is mounting that Rutgers needs new dorms, new classroom buildings, new labs. It does not need a $100+ million stadium expansion that very, very few want and that will do nothing to improve the quality of life for 99.9% of students.
And pretty much that is what Professor Dowling is saying in this recent Packet newspaper profile. Read that story and leave this blog cheered. The end is coming, for Mulcahy III, for the reckless stadium expansion, for the foolish push into bigtime sports.