Enter Richard McCormick and Robert Mulcahy
Regardless of one's ideals and personal beliefs, running a university is akin to running a business. Certainly, as a state university Rutgers must adhere to particular policies. It must maintain as diverse a student-body as the state supporting it. Its mission must guide it toward assembling contributions geared for the economic well being of the state through a creation of various goods and services. In order for it to positively contribute, however, it must be financed in some fashion: more so than most state schools, due to the inherently uncertain relationship between New Jersey and Rutgers, the university becomes an investment. The result is a tenuous balance between adhering to the very policies that allow Rutgers to function as an entity for and by the state all the while trying to continue to funnel money by means of non-local sources (through research grants from, for example, the federal government, through donors, through marketing and advertisements, through athletic sales and merchandise; as an aside, the reader may be interested to note that for FY2002 $240 million in grant support was surpassed for the first time; it should be mentioned that, although federal grant support, which makes up the largest chunk of Rutgers' research funding, has continued to increase during current economic conditions, state research support has decreased). Does this ensuing management problem sound at all like running a (very large) business? It should. Those quixotic days of long ago (when a university was simply a university) are nothing more than lore: today, the well-being of the university is absolutely dependent on it being run properly, like a business.
It should be no surprise that Rutgers' Athletic Director (AD) is the right man for the job he holds (Lawrence, should get due credit for this). He is a business man through and through, has profound knowledge of the geographical area and its demographics, and most importantly, has the intimate understanding of not only embellishing the ugly duckling, but of realizing the potential in it no one else sees (as this is not a biographical sketch of him, I will only briefly mention a few of his accomplishments: establishing what has traditionally become known as the first NCAA football game of the season and his involvement in bringing 8 NCAA Men's Basketball Regionals and the 1996 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four to the Swampland of New Jersey). Robert Mulcahy (BM), like any good businessman (although, it is not a difficult argument to make that the subsequent approach should be used in any life endeavor as well) knows that a successful project is one with a firm foundation. Thus minimizing future risk, the right foundation will, in ninety-nine percent of all cases, lead to success. Building the right foundation may involve the construction of dual components, where the sequence of construction may be important. That is to say that while X and Y are intricate parts of the foundation, X must be in place before Y. For the following discussion I will focus on what I deem to be the ‘X' component of the foundation.
The very first step in building the Rutgers athletic foundation involved surrounding oneself with the right people. Two things in particular made Greg Schiano (GS) a good hire. First, GS had, in a high profile situation, consistently won in college (not the case with Terry Shea): this cannot be overemphasized enough. He knew what it took to rebuild (served as part of the UM ascent back to the top, which started in 1998). Second, his youthful, energetic, and sometimes haughty character would prove to be an asset (so far, this has been evident in recruiting circles and has yet to be showcased in the record books, but it is, in my humble opinion, only a matter of time).
BM and GS, one schooled in business and the other a practitioner of many years, agreed on the philosophical foundation of Rutgers' re-birth. "This program will be built on a rock foundation," GS said upon his arrival. The foundation referred to was the enhancement of academic support. This was the critically necessary component that had been missing. Both men realized its importance. BM oversaw the initial overhauling detailing the manner in which Rutgers would devote attention to its athletes. The RU Strong/Life Skills program was initiated to help ensure a "positive and meaningful experience for the Rutgers student-athlete." Starting in 2000 (coinciding with GS's arrival) Rutgers began to advertise those athletes having showed significant academic improvement from the previous semester (the skillfully engraved plaque, with such Rutgers favorites as Joel Salvi, is on hand for all to see upon entering the newly renovated Hale Center). The Annual Report, published for the first time in 1998-1999, detailed the cumulative grade point average of each Rutgers varsity team. BM and GS instituted the SI (Supplemental Instruction) Program, a series of "supplemental" classes involving quizzes, tests, and individual progress reports issued throughout the semester, (that football scholar-athletes must attend in addition to their respective class) instructed Teaching-Assistant-style along side the course being taught by the university professor. In many cases these were taught by cash-strapped graduate students such as myself, whose financial benefit, without mentioning anything of the experience and friendship gained, proved invaluable. Academic competition was now being nurtured. The end product resulted in a stark difference with the past: while previous Rutgers coaches were able to successfully recruit some of the sought after blue-chips, GS landed them and will have them on the field this upcoming fall. The ‘X' component of the foundation is now in place.
McCormick's recent arrival leaves less to be said of his Rutgers' accomplishments. Nevertheless, like GS, he is a New Jersey native, perhaps making his desire for a successful Rutgers more personal. He realizes the importance of athletic accomplishment having viewed it first hand as the President of Rutgers' fellow AAU partner, the University of Washington. Most notably he shares the same philosophy regarding Rutgers' athletic re-birth, making the ensuing working relationship with BM not only possible, but productive: "Bob and I share the same four goals for the university's entire athletics program. They are to ensure the academic success of our student-athletes; to have a program of unquestioned integrity; to move the program toward budgetary self-sufficiency; and to be athletically successful on the field. I am confident that Rutgers is on its way toward meeting these goals." I stress to the reader to pay careful attention to the sequence of the aforementioned goals.
Certainly, while resulting in a discomforting situation, Rutgers' limited NCAA probation could have become a Knightmare had it not been for BM's pro-active ideology. It was at his insistence that, in 2000, Rutgers began reviewing its own athletic eligibility process. This exemplary approach, anachronistic in today's world of NCAA athletics, led to the following NCAA statement regarding Mulcahy's actions: "…The manner in which the violations were identified, reported and corrected reflects the commitment to integrity by the program's present leadership."
X-component is now in place. The Y-component (facilities) has been in place for some time, but has proven ineffective without the proper catalyst. The fitting vehicle has been setup for success. With the vision of the two men who hold Rutgers' athletic future in hand strikingly similar, the pieces have come together before our very eyes. In the ever changing world of NCAA athletics it is essential that Robert Mulcahy and Richard McCormick maintain this vision so as to allow the foundation that has been build to blossom into something to be marveled at.
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Enter Richard McCormick and Robert Mulcahy