By Desirée Taylor
Rutgers athletics is scoring big numbers when it comes to subsidies. University support for the department is up about $19 million, putting the total subsidy at nearly $47 million. That’s according to a university financial report. Whether it’s money well spent depends who you ask.
“We are spending more than any other college subsidizing our athletic program. I don’t see how we could become successful enough to offset those kind of expenditures any time soon,” said Rutgers Professor Mia Bey.
“It does take money to build a good program both academically and athletically. I feel Rutgers satisfies both components,” said Rutgers Student Youssef Alseginy.
Much of that subsidy increase went to costs associated with joining the Big Ten conference and dealing with scandals within the athletics department — among them, video showing former basketball coach Mike Rice, allegedly verbally and physically abusing his players.
“Rutgers doesn’t even disclose the fact that a lot was spent towards lawyers to fix this situation,” said Rutgers Student Yahya Mehkri.
Rutgers athletics officials did not return our calls requesting comment. But in a previous interview with our Managing Editor Mike Schneider, Rutgers President Robert Barchi said his goal is to dramatically reduce the subsidy.
“My goal would be to see the general fund subsidy to athletics eventually come down to zero. But you can’t do it over night. We reduced it by $1 million between last year and this year. I’d like to see that rate of progression over the next few years as well and I think we can do that,” Barchi said previously.
Joining the Big Ten will reap benefits. The conference attracts top recruits and Rutgers could see an economic windfall of more than $200 million over time. Former intercollegiate athletics director Tim Pernetti, who was forced out office for not taking swift action in the basketball scandal, called the Big Ten conference a game changer for Rutgers.
“It will give us the ability to run a self-sufficient athletic department,” Pernetti said. “It will give us the ability to invest in facilities and programs, support areas to give student athletes a great experience.”
But the Rutgers athletics department has seen its revenue decline. Meanwhile, tuition and fees have been increasing.
“We are a university, not a football league. We should be prioritizing our academics because that really comes first,” student Talia Friedman said.
“I’ve been here for 20 years. During that time I’ve been told over and over again that the expenditure in sports will pay off. They never have. We’re just deeper and deeper in the hole,” Bey said.
Subsidies are common for university athletics and the prestige of entering the Big Ten could boost ticket sales at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will officially join the Big Ten in July.