A Letter to the Rutgers Board of Governors

from the Coalition to Save Our Sports

 

Newly-elected NJ Governor Chris Christie:

"I support restoring these programs."

 

 

 

Background

In 2006, the Rutgers Board of Governors (BOG) announced statewide budget cuts of $52.4 million to staff and services to affect all academic and administrative operations at the Rutgers University system, including layoffs, cuts in courses and elimination of the six intercollegiate sports.

As it turned out, elimination of the six "participatory" sports -- some, like crew, involving athletics rivalries going back to the 19th century -- was part of a Div IA sports build-up that focused on diverting resources to football and basketball.

In response to the cuts, alumni and parents founded the Coalition to Save Our Sports (the teams known as the "Scarlet Six.") Research by this group found that the decision to eliminate the teams had been made months before the announcement but held until the morning of the BOG meeting in order to shield the university from having to face public outcry.

 

 

Billboard put up by SOS (Save Our Sports) on George Street, near the entrance to Old Queens quad.

 

 

According to files obtained through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), the cuts would save $2 million from an annual athletic department budget of $38 million. At the same time, it was announced that the football and basketball team budgets would be substantially increased. (The athletics department budget today runs to $56 million annually, including million-dollar-plus packages for football coach Gregory Schiano and basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer.)

Rutgers 1000 has supported the Coalition to Save Our Sports from the outset. A return to its ancient rivalries in these sports would constitute, in our view, an essential step towards removing Rutgers from commercialized Div IA sports and returning Rutgers to its roots in participatory athletics.

 

Billboard later put up in same location by RU athletics department to celebrate C.V. Stringer's success in running what many regard as a semi-professional sports franchise. One estimate is that all six eliminated Olympic teams could be supported for two years on Stringer's $1.4 million annual income alone.

 

On November 4, 2009, the announcement came that New Jersey had elected a new governor who during the campaign had unequivocally stated his support for restoring to full varsity status the six teams eliminated by the McCormick administration.

On the morning of Governor Christie's victory, the Coalition to Save Our Sports made public its letter to the Rutgers Board of Governors, suggesting that the BOG would do well to recognize that the rules of the game had now changed. That letter, preceded by several items setting it in context, may be found below.

Corzine, Mulcahy, McCormick

A brief history of duplicity and pusillanimity

 

MONEY

Rutgers initially claimed it cut the teams due to budget shortfalls, but:

· Without public disclosure, it actually increased University subsidy of the Athletic Department by over $2 Million in the wake of the teams’ elimination, despite the Board of Governors publicly claiming that the Athletic Department was, like other University departments, being forced to make cuts. The overall Athletic Department budget has increased by over $15 million since the elimination of the Scarlet Six was announced in 2006.

· During this period the university has undergone savage budget cuts -- over $64 million -- with eliminated classes, staff layoffs, firing of adjunct faculty, and large increases in undergraduate tuition. In a time of economic crisis, the McCormick administration nonetheless pressed for the construction of a $102 million football stadium expansion to placate Gregory Schiano, its two-million-dollars-a-year football coach.

· Despite clear public denials by its Board of Governors that it would have to do so, Rutgers was compelled by its elimination of the Scarlet Six to spend over $700,000 on additional athletic scholarships as a result of Title IX requirements. That sum alone was enough to carry the eliminated teams.

· The McCormick administration diverted to its two spectator sports over $800,000 in student fees that were meant to benefit only the non-revenue producing Olympic sports teams. Again, that sum alone was enough to carry the eliminated teams.

2. ACADEMIC DISTINCTION - while steadfastly claiming that it wanted to promote academic distinction on its varsity teams, the BOG terminated teams which were among the highest achieving academically. In the last year of their existence, the eliminated men’s teams had 4 of the 5 highest cumulative grade points averages of all men’s varsity teams, and Women’s Fencing had the highest cumulative GPA of all 30 varsity teams.

ATHLETIC DISTINCTION – the BOG also repeatedly claimed that it wanted to promote athletic distinction, but it eliminated its top teams, whose records surpass those of just about every other remaining Rutgers team:

· Varsity Men’s Lightweight & Heavyweight Crew - 14 Olympians since 1992

· Men’s & Women’s Fencing - 34 All-Americans in its last 21 years and Rutgers’ only NCAA champion

· Men’s Tennis - top four in the Big East in 7 of its last 10 years, including 2nd in the Big East in 2005

· Men’s Swimming & Diving - 10 Big East individual titles in its last 5 years

Despite the facts, despite strong support from many key State legislators on both sides of the aisle, and despite his cautious expressions of sympathy, Governor Corzine failed to act. He let the decision stand and failed to speak out, hiding behind Rutgers’ “autonomy” and ignoring the State’s and the Governor’s responsibility to make sure that there is some semblance of equity, and an appropriate provision of opportunity, in Rutgers expenditure of the several hundred million dollars of taxpayer-funded subsidy which it annually takes from Trenton. The Governor could have exercised leadership. Instead he walked away.

Support for the "Scarlet Six"

· New Jersey’s Assembly Higher Education Committee (unanimous Resolution; per the Chair of this Committee, Rutgers’ decision eliminating the Scarlet Six was “an absurdity at best”)

· Rutgers Alumni Federation

· Rutgers College Governing Association

· The State’s press, including the New York Times (multiple editorials, including 3/18/07 “Phony Baloney at Rutgers”); Star-Ledger (editorial and multiple columnist op-eds); Bergen Record (multiple editorials); Asbury Park Press (editorial); Home News Tribune (editorial); and Observer-Tribune (editorial and multiple op-eds)

· Alumni for a Rutgers Renaissance

· Countless letters to the editors of newspapers throughout the State

Governor Christie

Clear Support for Reinstatement

Coalition representatives had the opportunity to meet with former U.S. Attorney and gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie, as well as with Governor Corzine and his Commissioner of Higher Education, to inform them of the fallacies used to justify Rutgers’ elimination of the Scarlet Six. Corzine’s response was, at the end of the day, silence and inaction. Chris Christie, however, after hearing members of the Coalition out, expressly authorized them to make his personal reply loud and clear:

I support restoring these programs.”

Day After the Election

A Letter to Rutgers' Board of Governors

Dear Members, Rutgers Board of Governors,

New Jerseyans decided tonight that it was time for an historic change of gubernatorial leadership in Trenton. We hope that the leaders on the Board of Governors realize that it is also time for a change at Rutgers -- time to take a fresh look at the errors of the recent past and to now right the wrongs of the recent past.

Coalition to Save Our Sports