Preston Pennypacker on Coca Cola University

October 23, 2008

We’ve heard from our old friend Preston Pennypacker, Rutgers ‘32, who reports that he is “in as good health as can be expected, given the horrible news that keeps coming  in about the collapse of our beloved Rutgers.”

Mr. Pennypacker is deeply upset, it turns out, by the current talk about selling “naming rights” to the Rutgers football stadium. “It strikes me,” he writes, “as obscene. This business of making an old university over into a cheap shill for some brand name. It’s intolerable. My generation of undergraduates would have been over there throwing our bodies in front of Mulcahy’s bulldozers. What’s wrong with kids today? How can they let Rutgers—our Rutgers—be turned into a marketing vehicle?”

 Mr. Pennypacker reminded us that the story of Rutgers’ downward spiral into what he calls the “cesspool of commercialization” is chronicled in William C. Dowling’s Confessions of a Spoilsport. “The pertinent chapter,” he writes, “is chapter six, ‘The Coca Cola University.’ It tells how, just a few years ago, an admirable group of Rutgers undergraduates defeated the Lawrence administration’s marketing deal with the Coca Cola Corporation. Tee shirts. Demonstrations. Petitions. Personal confrontations with Francis Lawrence in Old Queens. Aren’t there any students like that left at the university?”

 We hadn’t looked at Confessions of a Spoilsport since it came out a year or so ago. Our interest piqued by Mr. Pennypacker’s comments, we went and reread “The Coca Cola University” chapter. As he says, it gives the full story of the successful student campaign against the Coca Cola contract. For those of you thinking of voting in the “Rutgers damage poll,” it usefully pinpoints Robert E. Mulcahy as the source of commercial contagion at Rutgers. It also mentions, interestingly enough, the episode of “naming rights” at another state university. By way of historical perspective, we reprint those paragraphs here:

  “In Universities in the Marketplace, former Harvard president Derek Bok describes how corporate marketing has undermined the university as an institution whose essential forms and values go back to the early Middle Ages.

 Yet Harvard and private schools like it, blessed with substantial endowments and a long tradition of academic distinction, are not the best places to look for signs of commercial penetration. For various reasons, public institutions have proved to be most vulnerable to the contagion of corporate marketing. Consider, for instance, the case of Boise State University in Idaho.

 Boise State’s basketball games were once played in an arena called the Pavillion. Then the university was approached by representatives of Taco Bell, the national fast food chain. All Boise State had to do was agree to rename the Pavilion the “Taco Bell Arena,” and the company would make a sizeable contribution to university coffers. It was a win-win proposition. Tac Bell would write off the cost as an advertising expense, and Boise State would have money it would never otherwise see.

 Faced with so blatant a move to commercialize their university, professors at Boise State mounted a short-lived protest. After some debate, the faculty senate was persuaded to pass a resolution opposing the Taco Bell deal. Boise State’s president struck back immediately. The faculty, he declared, were harming their own university. If Boise State wasn’t permitted to sell the name of the Pavilion to Taco Bell, other corporate donors might be discouraged from making similar offers.

 An anthropology professor named Robert McCarl answered the president in the student newspaper. “If students, faculty, and community members cannot protest a significant decision like this without ‘harming the university’ then Boise State is well on its way to becoming a corporate-controlled university.

 The very purpose of a university, Professor McCarl declared, “is to open up debate and create discourse about the issues of the day,” placing them in a “wider intellectual and cultural context.” Then, having flickered for a moment, the faculty protest at Boise State died out.”


    — Confessions of a Spoilsport, Ch. 6, “The Coca-Cola University”


A reader raises intriguing questions

October 23, 2008

“If it goes off and a polygraphist is called in at SL expense, perhaps long burning questions relative to RU should be also asked. There have been allegations of slush funds, trips, rings and preferred seating arrangements centered around the Senator and others using University dollars. Also questions about the elimination of the six sports and the Senator’s involvement in all of it. Shouldn’t the Boxer and Malone
investigative staffs be keeping an eye on how this new development plays out also? It could be the smoking gun to many things bantered about over the last several years at RU.”

This email is vis a vis the Star Ledger’s offer to run a lie detector on Three Ring Codey.

PHD Comics, Funny or Not

October 22, 2008

A reader sent us this link to PHD comics, where average salaries of collegiate football coaches are seen as 11 times higher than tenured professors.  The average football coach makes $1 million and change — and the average (male) tenured prof gets $95,000.  A female gets $86,000.

Question: Is Greedy Greg Schiano worth 11 professors?  Is he worth twice as much as an average coach?

On another note: another day, another editorial against the Rutgers Stadium expansion.  This piece in the Bergen Record specifically opposes the university’s efforts to sell “naming rights” to the stadium to the highest bidder.  Read the piece.  It is adamantly against pretty much everything to do with the “foolish” stadium expansion.

‘Rid Rutgers of Boosters’

October 21, 2008

Don’t they teach simple arithmetic at Rutgers?  You’d think that Slick Dick McCormick and his cronies on the BoG would have gotten the message that now is no time to talk about pouring $100 million into a stadium expansion no one wants.  It makes as little sense as a homeowner facing foreclosure who decides what he needs is a huge home equity loan to build a mammoth new garage and to buy an equally mammoth RV to park in it.  At least that home owner actually has a plan for filling the garage.  Rutgers has no plan for filling any new seating, other than continued reference to “the waiting list” — which of course was created when the program was on an upswing, not today’s Big East cellar-dweller.  Rutgers even is telling gullible reporters the waiting list has increased by 700 — but it’s impossible to fall off the list so nobody can say the 12,000+ on the list have any current interest in tickets (or that they they even have jobs),

Even the richest schools are scaling back in today’s economy, per today’s NYTimes piece, Financial Straits of Boosters Hit Athletic Programs: “Like the chief executives on Wall Street, leaders of collegiate athletic programs must acknowledge that the boom days of fund-raising have given way to belt-tightening.

‘Adjustments have to take place and look bleak in the short term,’ said Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma’s athletic director.”

Saturday’s NYTimes had another piece, Rising Criticism as Rutgers Invests in Athletics. As the school literally crumbles and tuition skyrockets, critics are asking: why put money into the sports sinkhole?  $500 million in basic physical plant maintenace has been deferred…and yet the McCormick administration continues to mumble support for athletics spending.  Talk about fuzzy logic!  “They had one good year, and everybody said this is the beginning of a trend,” said George R. Zoffinger, a member of the university’s Board of Governors and the chairman of its audit committee, which completed a report in February criticizing the athletic department for poor financial oversight. “One year doesn’t make a trend. That’s the problem.”

New Jersey will be particularly savaged by the nation’s economic collapse.  The Ledger writes: “A quarter-million jobs lost. Another year of falling house prices. A multi-billion dollar hole in the state budget.

Those were the grim predictions delivered Monday by economic experts and the governor as they analyzed the impact of Wall Street’s collapse on New Jersey’s economy.”

“This isn’t a recession,” added Kenneth Goldstein, economist for The Conference Board. “This is something worse.”

Even Seatbelt Corzine acknowledges the state faces a multi-billion dollar budget deficit — and there are no ideas about how to close that gap without inflicting pain on millions of state residents.

Nationally, the country’s imploded economy is hitting sports, hard, per this Reuters story. “Smaller crowds are only the first domino to fall for U.S. sports leagues, which could see lower corporate spending, flat or declining revenue and stagnant team values in a global recession, analysts said.”  

Keep in mind that Rutgers has not been able to bond its stadium expansion and the school’s back of the envelope payback hinges on spectacularly Panglossian assumptions about attendance and the willingness of fans to absorb ticket hikes and increased parking fees.  It’s all fantasy and the bottomline is: These are no times to be putting tens of millions into a sports program that is mired in misery.

Meantime, this blog was referenced in another NYTimes weekend piece.  Columnist Peter Applebome writes: “In the immediate future, Rutgers is facing rising financing costs, a severe budget crunch and a depressed economy that has all but shut down the donations that were expected to help pay for the project. And the questions raised by The Star-Ledger of Newark about the financial management of Rutgers athletics have hurt the university’s credibility with the Legislature at a time when it most needs it.

Chances are the situation will get worse before it gets better.”

In the Ledger, Bob Braun gathers up glaring examples of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the state’s public schools — and at Rutgers many of the most glaring for-instances revolve around the ethically troubled sports regime of Big Bobby Mulcahy, the man who cannot count straight.

And talking about counting…in polling at this site on Who is ruining Rutgers, we admit to puzzlement.  Slick Dick McCormick has a huge lead over Big Bobby Mulcahy…but 1960s era historian Eugene Genovese has picked up a sprinkling of votes.  Genovese of course was famous for proclaiming at a 1965 teach-in that he “welcomed” a Viet Cong victory and, in turn, this triggered a campaign by the state’s crypto-fascists to “rid Rutgers of Reds.”  For our part, we want a campaign to rid Rutgers of boorish boosters (and while we’re at that, let’s dump McCormick and hire a real university president).

Who is ruining Rutgers?

October 16, 2008


Schiano=Sarah Palin?

October 16, 2008

That’s what a poster to the message boards says: “GS is looking and sounding more like Sarah Palin, looks good to people, can get his base fired up but cannot produce, do not know much and is full of bs.”

The Star Ledger, meantime, editorializes today: Rutgers must regain trust.  The Ledger argues that Rutgers mismanagement — stupidity, greed, ego run wild — has fractured the bond between RU and taxpayers who foot the bills.

Indeed.  And it is well and good that RU is putting in place new ethics and oversight measures — but trust will not heal until Big Bobby Mulcahy is fired.  There can be no healing until that step is taken.

Home News & Tribune: Thumbs Down on the Stadium

October 16, 2008

The HN&T editorializes today against the stadium expansion: “University leaders have bungled the stadium project from day one, entranced by the glitter of big-time college football, the supposed riches it would deliver to the school, and certain promises by highly placed elected officials — Gov. Jon S. Corzine chief among them — that they would take it upon themselves to raise a big chunk of the necessary cash to bring the project safely home.

Those promises and predictions have fallen flat.”

The editorial asks who’s to blame, and it answers its own question: “Everyone, pretty much.” 

The fall guy will be Big Bobby Mulcahy, mainly because at age 72 he’s positioned to “retire.”  Our advice: don’t buy a 2009 work calendar.  You won’t be needing it, Big Bobby.

The stadium “expansion” will wind up much, much smaller than initially planned.  Some bleacher seating will be thrown up on a concrete pad and then university officials will crack the cheapest sparkling wine they can find to officially “open” the new Rutgers stadium.  Look for the $1.99 stuff at Trader Joe’s because everyone is wishing they had never heard the word “expansion.”

Rutgers, meantime, is stuck owing over $10 million to Greedy Greg Schiano, a coach inked to a longterm deal by a frantic — and thoroughly stupid — Mulcahy.  There frankly is no hope he’ll be hired anywhere else.  RU has to suck up this money, but hasn’t that always been so with key Big Bobby Mulcahy hires?

So Rutgers will be poorer, for many years to come.  As the HN&T writes: “Recent tough times have seriously damaged Rutgers University’s bottom line: dwindling state support is an annual occurrence; the cost of tuition has soared beyond the ability of many New Jersey families to pay; hundreds of courses have been cut; classroom staff has been axed, and six minor sports exist no more, all sent packing to save dollars.”

And even though, by now, everybody agrees that the stadium expansion plan is as cockamamie as we have always said it is, more millions will have to be spent to patch up the Piscataway hole.  Heads must roll in recompense and that means Big Bobby Mulcahy, several members of the Rutgers BoG, and — dare we dream — Slick Dicky McCormick.  There’s no time like now to start printing those pink slips.