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.


Getting their kicks at our expense

May 21, 2008

Ledger columnist Fran Wood explores the disingenuous voodoo accounting whereby Rutgers loses money paying for dry cleaning for guests at the Texas Bowl…but it lacks the cash to pay for the 6 Olympic sports or for much of anything academic. When Rutgers loses money on football — and all three bowl appearances in the Schiano era have been money losers — who picks up the tab? Students and taxpayers.

As Wood writes: “It’s hard to miss the arrogance here — the same arrogance that had construction machinery virtually idling on Rutgers’ campus even as the university and Legislature were theoretically still undecided about whether to undertake the current stadium expansion.

The same arrogance that says it doesn’t matter that the last $30 million for this expansion hasn’t been raised yet. Thirty million? Don’t sweat it. It’s for football. It’ll show up.

This at a school so strapped for cash that it killed six varsity sports to save a tiny fraction of $30 million. At a school that dropped dozens of teachers and hundreds of courses.”

Read the whole column.  It nicely highlights the absurd and ignorant arrogance that fuels the jock-sniffing decisionmaking that now rules at Rutgers.  It’s a nice piece, read it.

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.

Rutgers Fails Its Audit Exam

May 18, 2008

The Asbury Park Press editorializes vigorously against chronic, lax financial oversight at Rutgers. The editorial explicitly points to the $11,000 wasted on in-room movies and telephone calls enjoyed by guests of the football program at the Texas Bowl as a prime example of conspicuously stupid consumption.

But as become more evident, the McCormick administration honestly has no idea where Rutgers’ money goes. No idea whatsoever.  Read the Gannett reporting on the cavalcade of ignorant waste that characterizes Rutgers under McCormick.

How much shame does spending on football have to bring the university before somebody blows the whistle?

Joe Cryan, why aren’t you holding hearings on waste at Rutgers as it pursues Mulcahy’s Folly?

Wasteful, Wanton Football Expenses

May 16, 2008

State auditors are blowing foul whistles regarding Rutgers and money at the Texas Bowl.

The Bergen Record story is here.

The Gannett story is here.

Ledger reporting is here.

Call this a sad saga of waste. Auditors “found the university spent $11,000 on in-room movies, valet parking, room service, Internet connections and phone charges for spouses, guests and children of athletic staff during the Texas Bowl trip to Houston in December 2006,” per Gannett.

This is the very same university that keeps jacking up fees and tuition for students and that has a backlog of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance.

According to the Bergen Record: “The school could not provide a figure for how much was spent at the bowl, which Rutgers won.

“The previous year, when it played in the Insight Bowl in Arizona, the athletic department spent all of its $1.25 million bowl payout and more, according to documents analyzed by The Record.

The school also paid the way for dozens of guests, spouses and children to attend that game.”

Chew on that: Rutgers has no idea what it spent, it admittedly lost money in the Insight Bowl appearance the prior year, and yet it paid for “dozens” of guests to go to Texas to watch a tertiary bowl game.

Is this a program you want to support with your dollars? A program that — apparently without shame — admits it does not have a clue how much it lost on the Texas Bowl.

How much money is Rutgers losing on bigtime sports?

May 15, 2008

Guess a lot and you are on target.

Guess that the losses are never likely to end and, sadly, you are also right.

New research overseen by the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “just 17 of the more than 300 athletics programs in all of Division I,‘about 5 percent’, earned a net profit between 2004 and 2006.”

The probability that Rutgers will ever be in that elite is slim to none. That’s just being realistic. Deluded jock-sniffers whose heads are filled with musty aromas may not be able to see this reality, but it is what it is: Rutgers will continue to lose money pursuing the tawdry dream of sports championships.

Where does the rest of the money come from? From the universities’ general funds of course. That means money is diverted from English and Philosophy to plug up losses incurred in football, basketball, and down the line.

And now we know there is no real end in view. Adding more seats to Rutgers Stadium — aka Mulcahy’s Folly — changes nothing since that increased revenue would be needed to pay off the debts incurred in adding the seats in the first place.

Talk about Idiocracy in action!!