Last week I wrote about how Rutgers university engaged in some secret dealings to retain head football coach Greg Schiano and some poor decisions that put the financial stability of the institution at risk by dumping over 100 million dollars into the football program. Investigations have been promised and everyone is very upset (either at the press for running the stories or at Rutgers for their chicanery), but something strange has happened. In interviews held over the past few days Bob Mulcahy, athletics director at Rutgers, has denied that Schiano was ever given a hush-hush "escape clause" that would allow the coach to walk away from the university without penalty if the bloated football stadium expansion is not completed. What is going on?
Let us rewind a little bit. On July 22 The Star Ledger reported that Schiano received an extra $250,000 funneled through a sports marketing agency, an arrangement kept secret for some unknown reason. Redirecting of funds is common in college & professional sports, some say, and at best it can be said that keeping the deal hidden was a poor choice. The very next day, however, the same newspaper reported that Schiano's contract had an amendment stitched on that would absolve him of a $500,000 penalty if he left the university early if Rutgers does not finish the stadium expansion on time. According to the article this sweetener was acknowledged and outlined by university president Richard McCormick on the evening of July 22, the top administrator apologizing for the "lack of transparency."
Was there a secret amendment to retain Schiano or wasn't there? The president of the university said there was, as reported in the newspaper, but Mulcahy says there wasn't and that the penalty is still in Schiano's contract. A flurry of articles about new team members and the excitement surrounding the upcoming season have somewhat whitewashed the controversy, but I guess we'll have to wait for the official investigations to find out what is really going on.
If there is one thing I resent, however, it's that critics of the football program are being characterized as people who want to tear the university down (i.e. not doing the collegiate equivalent of "supporting our troops"). There is a lot that I personally dislike about Rutgers but I want to see things improve, and I think that the university is making a mistake by gambling a an exorbitant sum of money on a team with only one good and one so-so season over the past several years. Football apologists claim that all these high price tag changes will help the school but that remains to be seen, especially when funding to the school has been cut, academic programs and services are being trimmed to the bone, expanding the stadium will require over $70 million in loans, and tuition has just been bumped up another 8.5%. More is being spent on football and less on academics, the overall budget further pared down every year. (And guess who is footing the bill?) Is this responsible, or even rational? I don't think so, but come September 1 such problems will likely be forgotten as fans pack the Rutgers stadium for the first game of the season. I've got to get the hell out of this place...