Secret Spending at Rutgers

Update: Today a new report was issued with more details about the way Rutgers is shelling out big bucks for football and underestimating the repercussions. I urge you to read it if you are interested in this controversy.

Over the past few weeks I have been covering the controversy surrounding Rutgers University and the shared delusion that it has had a long tradition of football success. (Rants 1, 2, and 3) With the fall semester just a week and a half away you would think that school officials would be working hard to resolve some of the major issues exposed by the Star Ledger and being contested even in the pages of the New York Times, but every week things seem to look even worse than they did before.

According to a new report issued by the Newark Star Ledger (and picked up by the AP), internal auditors warned school officials of the out-of-control spending in the athletics department months ago. Some expenses appeared dubious and lacked documentation, and it appears that there was hundreds of thousands of dollars of off-the-books spending. The director of the audit, Joseph Sikora, put it mildly when he said "The leadership and organizational structure over athletics' financial operations show signs of being overextended at a time when the football program is undergoing rapid growth and success."

Although the university refused to discuss or release the audit the newspaper was able to get a copy from an undisclosed source, and the contents do not make Rutgers look good. As I had previously suspected, the report reveals that Rutgers officials were all-too-eager to spend funds gained from bowl games and other streams of revenue the football team created. The organization spent more on such events while under-reporting the costs; the numbers just don't add up. If we take the football team's trip to the Insight Bowl a few years ago as an example, the team reportedly brought in about $1.25 million, yet spent so much that they wound up in the red. This is a well-understood "secret" of college football, and even the president of the university doesn't expect the team to actually be generating money for the university. In the same report he is quoted as saying "We're not doing this to make
money," scoffing at the idea that the team might start to turn a profit in 5 years (the quote dates from 2006, if I'm not mistaken).

The end of the Star Ledger report is particularly galling, and I will reproduce it in full here;

George Zoffinger, chairman of the audit committee on Rutgers governing board, said the athletics department structured sponsorship deals in a way that deliberately kept the money out of university coffers, and away from direct oversight of administration finance officials.

"They're basically diverting funds that were sold as sponsorships to pay for other things that are not on the books of the university," he said. "This is not the right way to spend public money. The money should come to the university and then be allocated from there. It's inappropriate."

Tuition continues to climb, funding incurs larger and larger cuts, staff are laid off, and services slowed, yet the football program has increasingly been a drain on the university. What's worse, the ill-conceived stadium expansion is going to require that the university take out at least $73 million in loans (perhaps more as donors for an extra $30 million are nowhere to be found), a price that will ultimately have to be paid by students as the state budget shows little sign of improvement and the football program appears to be losing more money than it is making. It is an absolutely idiotic plan, yet university president Richard McCormick continues to defend it. Arguing over the non sequitur of whether Rutgers could fill an expanded stadium or not, he asserts that "no state or tuition dollars are being used to expand the stadium." That, by itself, is not a lie, but what he's not telling you is that the project is so overextended that funding may very well have to eventually come from tuition and state dollars. Think of it like a credit card; they're not actually spending tuition or state money now because they're taking out loans, but that money will have to be repaid eventually.

In the same editorial reply cited above McCormick wrote "the team's success has brought honor to Rutgers and pride to New Jersey." Perhaps there was a time when that was true, but now the corruption and incompetence of this university administration has brought shame to Rutgers. It is clear that the mantra at Rutgers has become "Football at whatever the cost!" and those costs continue to climb. Despite an earlier promise for transparency, top university officials have shown that all they want to do is hide their dirty financial secrets. I don't expect that to change, but I do hope that papers like the Star Ledger continue to try and reveal the fraud that has been going on for the benefit of the pigskin.


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Sounds like your coach and administration are as dishonest as Michigan's legend, Bo.
Bo was a class A lier about academic decline for athletes, graduation rates, and money spent. If this is too harsh a take on the situation at Rutgers, apologies.
("Your" is used in the same way as the "Royal we" - I don't mean to imply you support anyone.)
Good luck.

it is clear that the mantra at Rutgers has become "Football at whatever the cost!"

I went to Rutgers as an undergrad back in the early 90's, and I seem to recall feeling the same thing back then. Maybe the cost was less. However, there was a deep sense of financial crisis; I remember one strange cost cutting method adopted was that every other light bulb in the entire university was unscrewed. That meant a lot of dark classes. And then they build a new football stadium.

I believe that this entry and your previous on the topic have been fundamentally dishonest.

Please take a look at this article:…

The only relevant story here is that disgruntled Board of Governors member George Zoffinger is trying to get athletic director Bob Mulcahy fired, and is dragging Rutgers through the mud in order to accomplish this task. He leaked numerous items to the Star-Ledger - including a draft buyout clause from Greg Schiano's contract extension that was never included in the final deal, and details of a marketing agreement with Nelligan Sports, which had been reported on by the Star-Ledger in 2006. Not much of a secret then, was it?

Jon; (if that is your real name...)

How can an opinion be dishonest? I've reported here on what the Star Ledger has stated along with my own thoughts. I might not be correct, but I don't know how you can come away with the idea that I'm being "fundamentally dishonest."

I had a look at the article, and even if Zoffinger has a grudge against Mulcahy, so what? Does that mean that the people who did the Rutgers audit also have a secret grudge? Does it mean that the Rutgers team is making money? Does it mean that McCormick is being honest when he says this expansion is never, ever going to cost students or taxpayers money? These questions, and others, are much more fundamental issues that have little to do with who doesn't like who. The administration has so far failed to open their books or be transparent, as promised, and Rutgers boosters would rather look the other way because of their football obsession than even consider that there are some shady goings on at Rutgers. The fact that unethical conduct is going on is clear, it's just a matter of how deep it goes.

It's my real name.

Consider what would happen if the Rutgers biology department was audited. Do you think they would find absolutely no irregularities? Unless you have direct knowledge of this report, you can't say anything as to its overall tone or assessment. Also, it would require familiarity with accounting and general knowledge of the auditing process to determine the scope of these allegations. It could simply be that accounting practices everywhere are lax and in need of improvement.

What Zoffinger's grudge means is that the audit was designed strictly for internal consumption, precisely because its findings were designed by read by an internal audience that had the proper context. There is no indication of major misdealings at Rutgers that go above and beyond any other university or institution. The spotlight is being unduly shined on Rutgers at the moment as a result of a political spat, where the losing party has thought fit to adhere to scorched earth policy of airing all of the athletic department's dirty laundry in an attempt to get the athletic director fired.

The university is opening their books, as they have accepted state oversight on this issue to help diffuse any allegations of wrongdoing.

Robert Mulcahy claimed that Rutgers football turned a five million dollar profit in 2007 (… ). With the stadium sold out, and nearly 12,000 on the waiting list ( ), the school would be foolishly throwing away sorely needed long-term revenue if they did not expand the stadium.

Please expound on how there are "shady" goings on at Rutgers. As an evolutionary biologist, you presumably can appreciate how frustrating it must be when a creationist makes similar unfounded assertions about your commendable discipline.

From where I stand, the recent series of articles in the Ledger pertain to run of the mill minutae that's only being publicized as a result of a personal feud. What's dishonest is to start off with a preconceived notion, latching on to every negative story that reinforces it, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, not consider or accurately represent counter arguments (i.e., the claim by yourself and Dowling that all critics of the athletic department are unfairly smeared), and make vague assertions and fall back on weasel words when all else fails.

You and the Rutgers 1000 chauvinists deliberately misrepresent the opinions of those who support Rutgers athletics, painting us as two-dimensional cartoon characters, and not granting our opinions even the faintest hint of charitable consideration as is typically a courtesy in healthy and vigorous academic debate.

My challenge is this:

1. Prove that the Rutgers athletic department has engaged in deliberately unethical conduct.
2. If 1. is accomplished, show that there is a corruption unique to Rutgers that goes beyond more-widespread problems with high level college athletics (that I readily acknowledge)
3. Prove that there is a causal relationship (i.e., not just a vague correlation) between Rutgers placing a greater emphasis on its athletic programs and the degradation of its academic prestige.

What I'm doing is NOT claiming that Rutgers and its athletic department are totally in the clear, or that there are not serious problems currently affected high level college athletics as a whole. I do think it is unfair to single out Rutgers, and that critics of the athletic department have little credibility due to incidents like Dowling insulting the intelligence of the football players, or the Rutgers 1000 blog continuing to rely on unfactual assertions such as the belief that Greg Schiano has a stadium-related buyout or that he received unpublicized payments from Nelligan. Relying on those lingering misperceptions just does your overall argument a great disservice. Which in a way, is a shame, because again, there is a great deal currently wrong with the way big time college athletics works.