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Rutgers Finances: When “news” isn’t news

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Econ prof and frequent athletics critic, Mark Killingsworth, is back along with the New Brunswick Faculty Council to, once again, throw shade at athletics

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s kind of like the movie Ground Hog Day. You know, the one where Bill Murray keeps waking up on February 2 to repeat the same story, but each time, because he learned something, the situation gets better for him.

Only in this version, we don’t learn anything new.

Everyone’s favorite Economics professor, Mark Killingsworth and his best buds on the Faculty Council have issued another statement decrying the deplorable situation in Rutgers Athletics finances.

Killingsworth had long been a critic of the spending practices of Athletics, and that view hasn’t changed. The debt, the loans at high interest, and the continued debt and draw on University resources to support sports. Nothing new.

But honestly, what has changed? The actions may be new, but the outcry is the same. Go ahead, check the headlines:

Rutgers Finances: The numbers get better, despite HBO

Rutgers faculty decry spending on athletics

Rutgers Athletics: Robbing Academics to Fund Big Sports

When will Rutgers athletics turn a profit? New AD has a plan

Rutgers Athletic Finances, Part 1: And just how are we turning that corner?

It isn’t news that Rutgers has spent “University” and “student” funds to support athletics. But there are some significant differences as we look at the situation today.

In 2011, Greg Schiano was the football coach and Tim Pernetti was the AD; and before him Bob Mulcahy spent money on football like a sailor on leave. Schiano wanted his program to have everything it needed and Bob/Tim wasn’t going to say no. In 2013, Flood was the coach and Tim was still the AD, having hired Mike Rice as the basketball coach. In 2017, though, there is a major difference: no Pernetti, no Hermann, no Flood. The general consensus is that grown ups are now in charge.

No one - NO. ONE. - around here would make the argument that Rutgers Athletics was awash in great coaching hires and top-notch decision making. No, Rutgers had one bad coaching (and AD) hire after another. Fund-raising was moribund. Rutgers had deservedly garnered a moniker of being a (generously put) poorly run program.

But we now have a very different athletic administration. And a University president who apparently is not averse to be supportive of athletics (be still my heart!).

Is RU Athletics still in a bind? Yep. Are we still using “University” funds to support athletics? Yes. Is this the way we want it to be? Of course not.

And the reality is that the situation will change. We all anxiously await 2021 when Rutgers will get its full share of Big Ten revenue, a number somewhere north of $40 million. Will that solve all problems? No. It will, though, likely end or significantly reduce the draw on “direct institutional support”, meaning athletics will be just about self-sufficient. And in the mean time, Pat Hobbs and the Athletic Department have been raising funds at a pace never before seen and developing a plan to better structure for the future.

And in the mean time, I think we can all get behind the opening paragraph of the Faculty Council’s statement:

As members of the faculty of the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University, we wish the Rutgers intercollegiate athletics program every possible success. The great majority of student-athletes who participate in the program perform to a high standard, not only in athletic contests but also in the classroom, and learn valuable life lessons about teamwork and good sportsmanship. For students, faculty, staff, alumni, and residents of New Jersey, intercollegiate athletics can foster a sense of belonging to the Rutgers community. Athletics can also help increase awareness of what Rutgers has to offer in terms of academics as well as athletics.

What more is there to say?