I’m sick and tired of hearing all the analysis on the Rutgers sports cutting that’s just plain wrong. The Athletic Director has made his logic pretty straightforward, and the budget cuts are the secondary reason, not the primary. They were merely the opportunity he needed.
Seriously, another example of someone who’s missing the boat was found in the Opinions section of the Daily Targum.
Their argument is as follows: New Jersey is facing an enormous fiscal problem – a $4 billion deficit – and a taxpayer revolt, for which no solution is currently visible. Support for Rutgers has never been enthusiastic in the Legislature, and tuition has been rising steadily for the past seven years. Last year’s budget cuts resulted in widespread layoffs, course cancellations and a freeze on hiring. The prospects for the future look grim, and the total amount of money coming to the University from all sources is finite. Beyond these facts, there is a basic assumption about the role of the University in New Jersey.
The real reason for the cuts is that Rutgers had 30 Division 1A sports, which put Rutgers significantly above the average size of a Division 1A athletic department around the country. Combine that with the fact that of the three programs that had 30 sports, Rutgers had the smallest budget, $38 million, vs. $60 million and $100 million at other schools. The end result is that ALL the sports programs were being shortchanged by competing for scarce resources.
The budget cuts merely highlighted the fact that the athletic department would only be receiving limited, targeted funding increases in the next few years. Given the overall cuts to the University, Rutgers athletic budget was not about to double in the next few years to make up the funding gap with other peer insitutions. Hence, some sports were cut to try to fund all the remaining sports.
Yes, as I said, some sports will receive increased funding (i.e. football). However, within any space, if your ability to acquire external funding is limited at best, you have to maximize your ability to produce internal growth. Of all the sports in the mix at Rutgers, only three have any shot of being revenue generators, specifically football, and men’s and women’s basketball.
Granted, these are also among the most costly programs to run. And they cost even more money to run well enough to have a chance to achieve the success required to produce a positive return. So, while other sports are being cut, an investment is being made in to the revenue generating sports with the idea that at a minimum they can become self-sufficient and in a best case scenario begin producing a return that will help increase the overall atheltic budget, benefiting all programs.
I don’t pretend to know if this scenario will turn out to be true. I have seen plenty of ink spilled on the idea that very few atheltic programs have revenue-positive basketball and football programs, and I don’t know if Rutgers will prove to be an exception. I do know, however, that the budget cuts were simply not the primary cause of these cuts, even if they were the opportunity. And if you want to get them back, you need to understand this fundamental idea. Simply offering up the funding alone won’t get the job done, because it’s not really about money in the short term.