Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. First, a quick show of hands. Who here has run a multi-billion dollar organization? Anyone....by a show of hands. Don't be shy....no one? Okay, so we're all on the same page.
Robert Barchi is a very smart man. Look at his vitae and you know that he's bright, an achiever, an academic of the highest order. He was brought to Rutgers to lead a merger that was literally years in the making, from the creation and ultimate undoing of the Rutgers Medical School in 1970, to the creation of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences in 2013. A generation of confusing and sometimes inept medical education, brought together under the Rutgers umbrella. And Bob Barchi oversaw it. He brought on board people of equally prestigious backgrounds and intellect to make sure it was done properly. And from all outside appearances, it has been a success. He has done a great job in that area. And has done a very good job, though not without criticism, of developing a University Strategic Plan to move Rutgers forward. He embraces academic excellence and is striving to help Rutgers to be a school of equal standing with its institutional peers in the Big Ten. Based on a variety of comments I've read on this site over the last two years, I would say that the vast majority of readers are in agreement that his priority - education and academics - is on target.
That being said, let's turn the page, mix our metaphors, walk around the corner of Old Queens, grab a bus and go over to the RAC. Let's talk....dun-dun-duuunnnn....athletics! A recent piece by our Dave White led to an interesting series of comments that ended up with more than a few criticisms of University President Robert Barchi. The sense was that Barchi was limiting what Athletics was able to do financially due to his resistance to going into debt and/or taking advances on future Big Ten monies. He had priorities that, unlike his stance on academics, were not in agreement with a lot of people (dare I say the vast majority) on this site.
The latest brouhaha is over the RAC (latest? really? tell'em, Dave!) Apparently, comments by Julie Hermann at a meeting of the MBB booster group, The Court Club, indicated that fixing the RAC was wa-a-a-ay down the list of things to do. Well, of course there's no attribution in the story that was written in the state's largest paper. It was someone's version of what they heard of what was said, which may or may not be totally accurate. Personally, I'm not totally at odds with that thought of not "fixing" the RAC. There are a million things that need to be done with athletic facilities; upgrading the RAC would not be number one for me.
Building a practice facility for basketball, on the other hand, would be.
And those may very well be - and in my opinion are - two separate things. So if it takes "ten years" to redo the RAC, I'd be disappointed and upset, but not crushed. Take that long to build a practice facility? Well, I'll be there with Dave on the line with pitchforks.
But it raised the issue: what is going on at Old Queens, at the RAC, and with communication between those two places? Personally (nice thing about these blogs - we can write what we're feeling) I think Julie is being held back by working for a president who is being short sighted about athletics, has no concept of what it takes to mesh academics and athletics, is not looking for an answer as to why we should be building, and has a short time left "On the Banks".
Bob Barchi came from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Go to their website, and the first thing you read, in pretty large letters, is "Health is all we do". And I know they do it very well. But there is not one program at Jefferson that is not health-related. You don't go to Jefferson to be an English major or a computer engineer or an accountant. You go for the health fields. If any of its 7,000 or so undergrad and graduate students want to go to a college sporting event, they go to Villanova or St. Joe's or Temple. There are no athletic teams at Jefferson.
Now, smart people don't necessarily have to have direct experience with something in order to do well at it. Look at our recent athletic directors at Rutgers: Fred Grunninger was the golf coach (FYI: 3 football coaches, 3 MBB coaches); Bob Mulcahy was a politician (1 FB coach, 3 MBB coaches); Tim Pernetti (1 FB coach, 1 MBB coach). Okay, maybe not a good example.
But not having athletics at TJU doesn't mean that Barchi can't figure out and balance the significance of D1 athletics at a major research university in the Big Ten. Or maybe it does.
Where is the leadership? Why doesn't Bob Barchi say what needs to be said. Tell us, Dr. Barchi, what do you think of the RAC? How does it compare with our "peer" institutions in the Big Ten? What do we need? Tell us! From an article last year on going into big time athletics, Dr. Barchi offered:
"....it can also be a big risk to an institution from a financial point of view. And the cost of doing big-time athletics, if it's not appropriately addressed and managed, can be a major drain on the resources that might be used to support academic programs. It's a path that one might want to go down, but a path you want to be careful in managing and plotting your future."
And I understand that, as do most of us. But it doesn't mean we need to - or have to - stand still. It doesn't mean we cross our fingers and hope things get better. Again, from that same article's Q & A:
My Central Jersey: It was reported by another outlet while Jim Delany initially broached the idea of a new stadium, the point was made about how much $ had been invested in the football stadium and if he insisted it would be a "non-starter.'' Was that accurate?
"I don't recall Jim Delany ever talking to me about building a new stadium. We made it clear that we were not in position to expand our stadium at the current time and that if entry into the Big Ten was predicated on a major investment on facilities now, then we would have to pass.''
Let that sink in: "....if entry into the Big Ten was predicated on a major investment on facilities now, then we would have to pass.''
He said that. Now, if Jim Delany and the Big Ten said you have to spend $100 million in the next five years or you're out, I'd be hard pressed to fall in line with that. But Dr. Barchi said he would turn down the Big Ten. Who else was coming a-knocking, friends? Did he know about the disintegration of the Big East? Or, as it was with the tape of Mike Rice, was he too busy to watch it?
Rutgers fans, Rutgers supporters, the people of the state who are being asked to be fans and supporters, have a right to know what the University President thinks and feels about the direction of the athletic program. What is his vision, his direction, what are his marching orders to his troops? And not platitudes, not generic statements about having ".... a well-coached team that executes well and can provide a good showing on the field.'' What's needed, Dr. Barchi? You knew what was needed to integrate UMDNJ, and if you didn't, you found out. You've given your unequivocal support to Julie Hermann; are you giving her the tools to do the job? Or have you tied her hands?
What's it gonna be, Dr. Barchi?