State to Rutgers: Open Your Books!

July 28, 2008

The bad news for Rutgers multiplies, as the NJ State Comptroller has now opened a probe of Rutgers finances, Schianogate, and the rest of shenanigans surrounding funding for bigtime sports, per another first-rate piece of breaking news filed by Star Ledger reporters Sherman and Margolin. Per the Ledger: “The review is focused on the financial management of the university’s athletics department and was triggered by Star-Ledger reports last week that detailed hidden side deals with head football coach Greg Schiano.”

Rutgers has until August 11 to turn over a list of documents pertaining to Schianogate and, right now, the university says it intends to cooperate (but how many documents will go missing en route to Trenton?).

Per Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who applauded the involvement of the Comptroller in investigating Rutgers finances: “The whole thing needs a little bit of sunshine on it.”

Meantime, George Zoffinger, a member of the Rutgers Board of Governors, told the Home News & Tribune: “I am chairman of the audit committee and it hasn’t done me any good. Maybe this comptroller can get to the bottom of things,” said Zoffinger.

Zoffinger said Rutgers should not have embarked on the stadium expansion plan without a firm guarantee that the money would be in place. He called the plan and the scramble for money “a giant tap dance.”

And word of the Schianogate scandal keeps spreading. Newsday is on the story. So is the Philly Inky. Watch for many dozens more papers to follow by tomorrow.

Also piling on is The Chronicle of Higher Education, insuring that the Rutgers reputation plummets further down among its peers.

Way to go, Mulcahy III! Rutgers is getting so much more ink than anyone ever imagined.

What makes all this so perverse is that experts agree the Rutgers football team is mediocre, with many preseason polls slotting Rutgers around 50th in the nation. It’s difficult to see why so much money has produced so little. But that is what the Comptroller will dig into.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Rutgers will pull the plug on the Phase 2 expansion, Mulcahy III will “retire,” and probably Greedy Greg Schiano will flee the state, all in the next few months. Keep coming back — the story will only get funnier.

A current student’s cry of anger

July 23, 2008

Today’s email brought this angry post, written by a current student who had just learned about the hidden $250,000 payment to football coach Greg Schiano. This is a very angry document. You have been warned.

It says a lot about the McCormick administration that, less than a week after it raised tuition at Rutgers 8.5% and promised further cost-saving measures, including “budget cuts in administrative, instructional and support units; continued efficiency gains on all three campuses; and deferrals of expenditures” (to quote from the university press release), we learn of a secret payment of $250,000 to football coach Greg Schiano.

Indeed, perhaps we should consider what exactly this latest outrage says about the current administration at Rutgers: It says that for Richard McCormick, the most basic concept of the ethical duties of a university president is utterly foreign. McCormick now has an established track record of repeated deception and dishonesty stretching back at least as far as his disastrous tenure as President of the University of Washington. The litany of falsehoods practiced by this man, from his affair cover-ups to his changing and contradictory explanations for dumping six of Rutgers’ oldest sports in 2006 (to name just two), restate, time and again, one basic point. This man is morally unfit for the position he holds. That yet more sleaze and deception bubble to the surface with each passing season should surprise nobody.

It says that to President McCormick and the inept Board of Governors, the squalid condition of the campus, the broken buildings and third-rate learning facilities that characterize one of the most expensive state universities in the nation is of secondary concern. This point is so blatant that it seems almost silly to bother raising it. Yet, let us reminds ourselves that this is an administration that freezes faculty hires, fires long-serving staff, cuts courses, closes libraries early, crowds classrooms, ignores air-conditioning problems, endlessly defers maintenance, and ramps up tuition at the very same time that it makes back door payments to Greg Schiano and grants him unlimited use of a helicopter. And spends $250,000 on Hyatt accommodation for the football team for home games. And sends athletic staff on junkets to Texas. And makes Richard McCormick the highest-paid university president in America this last financial year. And splurges tens of thousands on rings and trinkets for NJ lawmakers “celebrating” some minor bowl win. And these are but a few examples.

It says that the reasons Richard McCormick and Robert Mulcahy gave for cutting six of Rutgers oldest sports in 2006, including crew and fencing, were utterly untrue. “Any time you’re put in a position of denying opportunities for students, it’s a heartbreaking situation” was how Mulcahy cried his crocodile tears to the New York Times. Yet, after refusing funds from some of Rutgers’ most distinguished alumni to save these sports, Mulcahy has continued to spend money like a drunk sailor at a whorehouse. As the free helicopter and the endless salary increases and the $250,000 shell payment to Schiano demonstrates, money was never the problem when it came to slashing sports. These six sports were cut to fund the unceasing demands of the selfish and self-serving head coach of football. This petty little man now builds his gaudy palace of riches in the ruins of what once was a great university, and student life at Rutgers suffers so that his demands be met.

And it says that to Richard McCormick, Robert Mulcahy III, the utterly incompetent William Howard Jr. and the remaining mediocrities that comprise the Board of Governors, and to the State of New Jersey itself, students at Rutgers exist as little more than cash cows to be squeezed so that the disgusting feeding frenzy at the teat of nepotism and graft may continue. There is no money to replace missing library books or install working air-conditioners. There is no money to keep water out of classrooms when it rains. But there is money for secret payments of $250,000 to an overpaid football coach. There is another $250,000 to give Corzine’s former deputy chief of staff a cushy job. There is $6 million to spend on secret plans and construction crews for the stadium expansion before the Board of Governors had even voted to approve the project. There is $500,000 to pay Richard McCormick a bonus for bringing this university to its knees. There is money all right. But not a penny more for academics!

If, then, we learn any lessons from this latest outrage, it is that there is little, if any limit to the rot and corruption among those charged with running this university. McCormick, Mulcahy, Schiano, LaRue and the rest won’t go freely and leave behind the gusher of easy money, flowing like milk from the coffers they themselves control. Rutgers desperately needs help, from alumni and students, from faculty and staff. It needs to be returned to its historic mission and purpose: to provide the best education it possibly can. Right now, under the current leadership, it is failing both its students and the citizens of New Jersey.