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Rutgers Olympic sports: Why we need and want them

One of the great things about a fan blog like On the Banks is the opportunity for fans - as opposed to trolls - to express their views. We don't always agree, but at least we're all rooting for the same side. Occasionally, a fan comment needs a response. Like here.


Last week, the UConn women won their 125th NCAA basketball championship, their 75th in a row.  Or something like that.

And they likely lost money in the process.

The 2014-15 NCAA financial report filed by the Huskies' athletic department showed that the women's basketball program took in $ 3,991,216.  Which is really good.  Although by comparison, Rutgers' women had $ 4.1 million in revenue.  Thank you, Jim Delany.

There will be more about that later, but why do I bring this up?  Primarily, it's to make a point about athletics in general, and why we do or don't have sports.  We published several posts about the number of sports Rutgers has and the number of athletes.  While we felt RU could and should - at some point - add sports and athletes, others disagreed.  One reader was very adamant about the point that Rutgers should not add sports, and perhaps already had too many.

That's ultimately the crux of the argument

....but I have never seen a ton of value in investing in sports that don't have widespread appeal, and don't generate revenue.

If I give 10M dollars to Rutgers Athletics, to do whatever they want with it, buying weight rooms/ locker rooms/recruiting lounges/snack bars for the basketball or football team, will ultimately impact the general student body more than say, a new baseball field, or locker rooms for the track team....

by ruckers on Mar 31, 2016 | 1:40 PM

ruckers' point was that literally every dime Rutgers takes in should go to building the revenue sports, football in particular.  His (I'm guessing it's a he) point is that a solid revenue-generating football program can eventually support more sports, and that point has merit  But he also says, in essence, that until that is possible, let's pour the money into football.  All football, all the time.

I think Rutgers distributes its money pretty efficiently currently, actually

It's called the "Rutgers Touchdown Club", and it should be.

Give the lions share to Football, lowball your basketball team, and let the rest of the programs run get their most of their funding from ‘direct donors', who donate to specific programs. (I assume this is how Rutgers does it, but i have no idea)

Investing in Rutgers Football will generate the best return, and Rutgers can't afford not to pour money into anything but football.

RUTGERS NEEDS MORE TOUCHDOWNS. The fundraising for every program in the athletic department would see a benefit, if only Rutgers scored more touchdowns.

by ruckers on Mar 31, 2016 | 6:24 PM up reply rec flag actions

Uhhh, no.  I'm really surprised how many people don't know/understand the workings of fundraising and paying the bills. The Rutgers Touchdown Club is a booster club; it is not the fundraising arm of athletics.  That would be the R Fund.  As for "....let the rest of the programs run get their most of their funding from ‘direct donors'", that won't - in fact that can't - happen.  Whether it' the Court Club for MBB or the Cagers for WBB or some other group, the booster clubs are supportive, but don't provide all the funding for a sport.

Let's go back to UConn women's hoops.  UConn is the most successful women's basketball program in the country.  It just won the NCAA title, it's fourth straight and sixth in the last eight years.  In 2014-15, it had revenue of $3.9 million.  Less than 10% of that was donations.  The most successful women's program and, if left to donors, it would only raise a tenth of what it needs to operate.  Yet ruckers wants Rutgers' other sports to rely on donations.


....let the rest of the programs run get their most of their funding from ‘direct donors', who donate to specific programs. (I assume this is how Rutgers does it, but i have no idea)

Rutgers has 24 sports and 22 of them need "direct institutional support".  In 2014-15, donations for the entire department covered less than 14% of athletics' expenses.  And half of those donations went to football. If football got it all, if we "lowballed" basketball, and let all the other sports depend on donors, we might as well shut it all down.  And if we didn't have those 24 sports - regardless of how unsuccessful some of those programs might be - we aren't in the Big Ten.

I love football.  I'm a season ticket holder.  But I want all Rutgers sports to be successful and get what they deserve and need.  Why?  Because that's what college athletic programs should be doing.  I responded to ruckers' original comments about not supporting sports that don't generate revenue in this way:

Why do we have athletics at all?

If we go back to the pre-gazillion dollar days, we had athletics for the enjoyment and well-roundedness of a university life. There was no money to be made; it was for the joy of it.

Crew came first, before there was anything called football. Sports were played because the students wanted to do it, to represent their school. There were no scholarships, only compete.

Why do any schools have sports of any kind? Why do D3 or D2 schools have them? Certainly not to make money. It's because it creates a well-rounded community, it brings people together, it creates a bond. MIT is D3 and sponsors 34 sports. No scholarships. And there is an expense playing football and lacrosse and having a sailing team. Why do it? Do they provide much to the university or the student body? Well, for the 643 people (on average) who attended its football games, it must have meant something.

Before Rutgers went "big time" (in a very small way), no one questioned it having any of the sports it sponsored. No one was overly concerned about cost€” because we spent so little. But it was expected that there would be teams. Because that's what a great school does.

MIT, by the way, just finished as the fifth ranked team in D3 in the Directors Cup standings.  Lots of sports, lots of success.

And I stand by that.  I understand financial limitations and the issues that face Rutgers.  But that shouldn't cause RU to limit opportunities - for athletes, fans, or the greater good.  Rutgers athletes already paid a price ten years ago when Bob Mulcahy unceremoniously, and without much discussion, cut six programs, two of which are Big Ten-sponsored sports.  Rutgers needs to expand opportunities, not diminish them.

Do a lot of people watch tennis or track or volleyball?  No.  Do a lot participate in those or the other Olympic sports?  Not as many as we should have participating.  But everyone who does watch and everyone who does participate is a Rutgers supporter.  Every one of them has a connection to Rutgers.

And we should be creating as many connections and as much support for Rutgers as we can.

You're up, ruckers.