RUTGERS ATHLETICS: DOLLARS AND SENSE

I read with interest the article "Big Time Ball: Should Rutgers Just Punt" in the June 1, 2003 issue of The Home News. As an alumnus of Rutgers College and current member of the Board of Governors, I am proud of my alma mater and the quality of its faculty, students and programs. As a public AAU research university, Rutgers provides an excellent education for its students, both in and out of the classroom.

RUTGERS ATHLETICS: DOLLARS AND SENSE

I read with interest the article "Big Time Ball: Should Rutgers Just Punt" in the June 1, 2003 issue of The Home News. As an alumnus of Rutgers College and current member of the Board of Governors, I am proud of my alma mater and the quality of its faculty, students and programs. As a public AAU research university, Rutgers provides an excellent education for its students, both in and out of the classroom. In addition to taking classes with distinguished faculty members from Pharmacy, Mason Gross School of the Arts, or our very respected arts and sciences departments, they participate in student life activities, including leadership, community service and club and intercollegiate athletics. Their college experience is enriched for the great diversity of options available at Rutgers.

Many faculty members are involved with governance and some have expertise on financial matters. The comments contained in the article, however, seems to indicate that there is an erroneous impression concerning intercollegiate athletics at Rutgers and its budget. I am writing in an attempt to provide some information. For many, athletics is synonymous with football. I expect that much criticism of the Football program results from its lack of success on the field. However, a new young coach with a football pedigree, Greg Schiano, has been entrusted with building the program from scratch and there are some early tangible signs that the program is being built on a firm foundation of athletic accountability and academic integrity. The athletic quality and character of his recruits makes for a bright future.

However, there is still much criticism of the program and it revolves primarily around the implication that Football expenditures have created a 'black hole' of massive deficits in our athletic budget. The repetition of this theme has created a perception that is a distortion of the facts. Lack of success on the field appears to reinforce in some the willingness to misrepresent the facts or accept without question distorted facts.

It is difficult to explain a budget in narrative form, but I will try. For the fiscal year covering July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002, Rutgers collected revenues of approximately $11 million from ticket sales, conference and NCAA distributions, corporate sponsors, etc. which offset expenditures and reduced the University's responsibility to $18 million. This amount comes from two sources: $13.7 million from the University budget and $4.5 million from student fees. Although it is a worthy goal for the Athletic Department to strive for financial self-sufficiency, it is worth noting that at this moment the University's investment of $13.7 million represents 1% of its $1.3 billion budget.

While researching this topic, I found it interesting to learn how the $13.7 in University funds and $4.5 million in student fees are distributed among the 30 varsity sports. The 'big three' of Football, Men's Basketball and Women's Basketball receive a total of $4.5 million. The 27 'Olympic' sports receive $8.4 million (the entire $4.5 million in student fees and $3.9 million in University funds). The amount allocated to the general administration and support services of the athletic department is $5.3 million. This includes the cost for facilities maintenance, Media Relations, Marketing, Sports Medicine, Academic advising and other associated services provided for the 30 varsity sports!

With respect to Football, it has an allocation of $2.7 million. That is, from a pool of $18 million (University funds and student fees), only 15% goes to the sport that has approximately 13% of the student athletes. So, why is Football frequently the scapegoat for the Athletic Department's financial expenditures? I expect it is a function of the University's past failure to communicate information that might have avoided these false perceptions.

As it relates to our 'Olympic' sports, should we be concerned about the size of our budget and reduce our commitment to Title IX and the $6.1 million allocated to women's sports? Of course not. We should take pride in the accomplishments of our women student athletes and the 650 student athletes in our 'Olympic' sports programs.

Perhaps it is important to share some information about scholarship funding. Forty-seven percent of a total of approximately $4.9 in scholarship support comes from outside sources and are designated for specific sports, leaving approximately $2.6 to be funded by the University. Interestingly, of this $2.6 million, $1.7 million is allocated to 'Olympic' sports while only $740,000 is allocated to Football and the remainder to Men's and Women's Basketball.

I provide this information in an attempt to dispel the erroneous perception that Football is the 'budget buster." Further, I illustrate the University's commitment to 27 'Olympic' sports programs and its student athletes and its superb effort to support Title IX as a source of great pride.

Rutgers is a great state university that aspires to be in the elite group of public universities in the country. I sincerely believe that included among the many development opportunities afforded our students should be the ability to participate in intercollegiate athletics and compete at the highest level.

I would like to see the faculty, administration and student body support our student athletes and athletic teams, who represent our University and our state, with genuine enthusiasm and create an atmosphere of success throughout the entire University community. It would be wonderful to see, in addition to the various student-to-student mentoring programs, the development of a faculty mentor program in which several faculty members form a 'team' and provide for a specific athletic team the same academic, career, and personal counseling that faculty provide for other student organizations. A new 'winning spirit' at Rutgers!

Ronald W. Giaconia is a member of the Rutgers Board of Governors and Chair of its Committee on Athletics.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: dforbes@theinsiders.com
Mike and the Big Dog LLC


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