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Rutgers Scarlet Knights Running in the Red

University unveils plan to turn around flagging fortunes of its Big Ten sports program — and reverse teams’ current losing streaks

With the Rutgers sports program in the scarlet-red, the university has unveiled its plan to turn around its finances, starting with turning around the various teams’ on-field performances.

“Your ticket sales, your fundraising, your sponsorship support, the type of deals that you may get in an apparel arrangement as you go forward, all of those are highly influenced by the success of your programs,” said Rutgers University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Patrick Hobbs.

Hobbs oversees the university’s sprawling sports program. The former law dean at Seton Hall says being in the Big Ten will eventually pay off, though a recent study by the school says it will take eight more years until Rutgers receives its full share of conference money.

“We’re very excited about where we’re going. To know there’s been some recent reports about the media rights numbers for the Big Ten and that’s a very significant jump in what all schools have seen, and we’ll see that jump as we go forward. We’re very confident as we improve our programs that we’ll grow the numbers in other areas and be a net contributor to the finances,” Hobbs said.

Scarlet in the red

But it’s far off the mark right now. Rutgers spends $94 million a year on sports. Its faculty union claims it has lost nearly $200 million since joining the Big Ten in 2014, so the university has unveiled what it calls its “strategic vision” for the Scarlet Knights.

Among the highlights are opening the Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center at the end of the year. It’s designed to provide student-athletes with tutoring and workshops. Also, the university is hiring the National Association of Athletic Academic Advisors to evaluate the school’s overall academic support for athletes. Rutgers is also opening a new health center, reviewing the training and ratio of coaches to students, developing a plan to upgrade sports facilities, and selling the naming rights to the venues.

Union standoff

Unions have been in a tense standoff with the school over contract negotiations, and they have turned some of their fire on the athletic department’s finances.

“The mission of the university, as I understand it, it is not to create a fine athletic institution. It is to create a fine academic institution,” said Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators.

“What I do appreciate in the report is that the athletic department is going to make significant investments in the academic success of the 600 student athletes. But we have to be concerned about the other 69,000 students and how they’re going to be able to afford to attend this institution,” said David Hughes, vice president of the Rutgers University Faculty Union.

In sports, financial success is often predicated by success on the field. And to that point, Rutgers football will have to improve upon its 1 and 11 season last year.

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