Rutgers today essentially acknowledged the Big Bobby Mulcahy reign as athletic director has been an expensive joke (with the laughs on the NJ taxpayers), as the university — in a sweeping statement reported by the Star Ledger — took multiple steps to remove all decisionmaking from Mulcahy. For months we have said he would be fired. Perhaps we got that wrong. It seems he will get to keep the big office for now, but nobody will have to listen to him. Call that fired but still on the payroll.
Key among the announcements:
* “the university said the meltdown in financial markets is having a serious impact on its ability to finance the ongoing expansion of its controversial football stadium expansion project — and officials say they are now looking at various options to address those issues.” Mark it down: that stadium expansion is RIP, has been for weeks now. Word is that once this season comes to its miserable end, there will be a quiet announcement that the expansion has been “delayed.” Until when? No announcement will be made in that regard. Consider this cockamamie plan DOA.
In an email from McCormick to faculty today, the president writes: “We are taking a hard look at all our facilities projects to be sure we proceed prudently, including the expansion of Rutgers Stadium. Fundraising for the project has gone more slowly than we had hoped, and borrowing for all capital projects has become harder and more expensive. I have therefore asked University Facilities and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to develop options for the stadium that would continue to place priority on constructing additional seats while reducing the overall cost. When we have more information, we will be able to decide how to complete the project in an economic fashion.” That is high-level administrator double-talk for: we can’t afford it and we won’t build it but we are hunting for a soft landing to make the announcement go down easier.
* The Ledger reporting continues: “In a detailed plan laid out by Rutgers University president Richard L. McCormick, the state institution will expand its internal audit department, require legal review of all future athletic department sponsorship deals, create new policies to ensure contracts and procurement deals are not compromised by conflicts of interest and set up a university-wide review of all “high-level” compensation packages to determine which ones need to be approved by the board directly.” Translated what this says is that Big Bobby Mulcahy will not be allowed to sign off on ludicrous $20 million dollar deals with the likes of Greedy Greg Schiano. Adult — intelligent — supervision will be required before Mulcahy is allowed to play with crayons again.
Per the Ledger: “McCormick said the new layers of oversight he proposed were aimed at addressing recent revelations about contracts and compensation in the athletics department.” Indeed…but these steps are also a last ditch effort to keep Rutgers at a remove from more direct Trenton supervision, as legislators — increasingly and loudly — have been complaining about the lack of governance at Rutgers and the waste of millions upon millions of public dollars by an athletic department that has been out of control.
In the Bergen Record, reporter Pat Alex delivers even more troubling news: “President Richard McCormick said more state aid cuts also could be looming for Rutgers, prompting his administration to warn of mid-year reductions in the university’s operating budget.” Wow: these cuts may come on top of the deep cuts implemented at the start of the semester. That would mean more layoffs, more classes cancelled, and more deterioration in Rutgers academics.
Alex also reports: “The credit crunch — which has increased the cost of borrowing — will force the university to take a ‘hard look’ at all building projects, said McCormick. Perhaps the most high-profile of those projects is the $102 million plan to expand the football stadium by 14,000 seats.” And of course it will be the first to be cut, if only because nobody can actually believe a losing Rutgers football team will pack the stadium next year. That’s over.
Alex deftly twisted this knife: “Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano will be paid $1.9 million this year under the terms of his contract and is also entitled to a number of costly perks, including money for housing and a car.
After three successful seasons that saw the team head to bowl games, the Scarlet Knights have faltered this year with a 1-5 start. Likewise, private fundraising for the stadium — spearheaded by Governor Corzine and state Senator Ray Lesniak — has also sputtered.”
Boosters, meantime, are in full despair, as even they seem to dimly realize that their day is done. Call this the day the Mulcahy Era officially ended, and when Rutgers began a slow return to putting academics first.