On the heels of Yahoo!’s report on corruption within the University of Miami athletic program, Bloomberg released yesterday a more disturbing report that outlines the totally legal, but tremendously misguided hyper-focus on building an athletic program at Rutgers University.
In the report, Bloomberg documents the rampant spending on Rutgers football program while vast cutbacks are being enforced in academics. The report is a snapshot at the misguided priorities of “institutions of higher learning” that also have gone “all-in” for the illusory promise of hitting it big in college athletics.
What’s happening at Rutgers is indicative of the state of college athletics and an example of why a major transformation is looming on the horizon. Rutgers is among the many BCS schools that have invested heavily in developing a major football program. They’ve paid head coach Greg Schiano $2.03 million annually, including bonuses to guide a team that has accumulated a 59-63 record during his tenure. Additionally, they’ve forgiven hundreds of thousands of dollars in an interest free home loan for Schiano. To Schiano’s credit, he’s gone 4-1 in bowl appearances during that time, but has yet to “hit the jackpot” by landing a BCS bowl berth.
But even the BCS bowl berth isn’t the bonanza some might think it is. The University of Connecticut lost money this past season by having to “eat” a large portion of their ticket allotment for the Fiesta Bowl when fans and alums wouldn’t travel in a down economy to Arizona for a game that really had no meaning.
So why are these schools in the game when they know that a profit is limited to a select few schools, like Texas, Michigan, and Ohio State, with the infrastructure in place to produce a profit? Part of it might be the illusion that they can build a program into a next generation powerhouse, but more likely is the status and perks that come with membership.
While UConn was losing money on the Fiesta Bowl, bowl president John Junker was lavishing cruises, golf junkets, and gifts on university officials. The same thing is going on with the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and the rest of the BCS cartel
As MT has been reporting, with Junker going down and more attention being given to the possibly illegal (all of these bowls are set up as non-profits and pay no taxes) activities going on at the highest levels of college sports, BCS schools are preparing to secede from the NCAA in a proactive move to avoid lawsuits and even prosecution.
What will result is the formation of four or five “super conferences” filled with those who have the wherewithal to ante up in this high stakes game. Schools like Texas, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are natural fits because they’re already turning a profit on athletics. Whether or not schools like Rutgers can continue to play at the “big table” is questionable.