Last Thursday, the athletic consulting company College Sports Solutions (CSS) released a comprehensive 58-page report on Rutgers athletics, which received opposition from the University faculty union.
Costing $95,000 to produce, the report provided a summary of the University’s athletic performance ever since joining the Big Ten conference in 2014, according to NJ Advance Media. Athletics officials cited the report as a map to reform the athletics program to be more competitive within the league.
President Robert L. Barchi’s focus on the athletic department is negatively impacting students, according to the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) in response to the report.
Deepa Kumar, president of AAUP-AFT, said the plan “robs from our educational mission” and “saddles (students) with greater debt to subsidize.”
“We need to restore the balance and re-prioritize the academic mission,” she said.
The athletics department’s deficit was $399.3 million in the 2003-2004 school year, and has decreased to $193.2 million since Barchi took office eight years later in 2012, according to annual fiscal-year documents obtained by NJ Advance Media. The faculty union attributed this to the athletics program’s increasing reliance on the University’s operating budgets.
The faculty union also remains in the middle of a contract dispute with the University, working under expired contracts since June of last year. At a Board of Governors meeting last December, they picketed outside of Winants Hall on College Avenue to protest the state of the current contract negotiations, according to The Daily Targum.
The report specifically detailed the $27 million gap between the payout of Rutgers and the distribution given to other schools in the Big Ten conference. This is due in part to the fact that most of the University’s 24 sports teams have finished last — or close to last — in conference standings since their participation in the Big Ten.
The Rutgers football team compiled a 1-11 record last season, attaining no wins in the conference. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, the Scarlet Knights have played in one bowl game — the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl — with former head coach Kyle Flood at the helm.
Rutgers won its first game against Texas State on Sept. 1, but suffered an 11-game losing skid against schools like Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State.
Since arriving at Rutgers in 2016, head coach Chris Ash’s record stands at 7-29. His contract is set to expire in 2022.
“The long-term benefits of Big Ten membership for the University as a whole are significant and immeasurable,” according to the report. “In terms of academics Rutgers was well-prepared. But its athletics programs were ill-prepared for Big Ten competition (and) its budget for athletics was substantially below the conference average. In short, Rutgers was facing a substantial period of time where it would be competing in the Big Ten with significantly fewer resources than its conference competitors.”
In addition, the University’s athletics program had a $47.4 million deficit in a $99.2 million budget, which was composed of $21.3 million in support from the Rutgers operating budget and $11.8 million in student fees, as well as a $14.3 million internal loan.
The faculty union said this focus on athletics would be better put to use if it was spent on teaching and research, and that the current budget was “costing Rutgers students 10 to 15 times more in fees than their peers across the country.”
Rutgers continues to distribute more than 10,000 free tickets to students for football home games and grants them free entrance to all other sporting events, despite the fact that the student-fee subsidy has increased each year.
Mark Killingsworth, a professor in the Department of Economics, said he wonders whether the athletics program will eventually stop its efforts to borrow from the University fund and students.
“The CSS report recommends even more spending, and even more raids on student fees and the academic budget,” he said. “If Barchi has a shred of integrity left, he will stand up for the academic mission of the University, and stop this move to take even more money from students and academic programs. But does he have the guts to do this?”