Rutgers invests in football but cuts other sports

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jerseyans are relishing the experience
of finally having a highly ranked football team at Rutgers, the
result of years of effort and investment.

But as Rutgers is enjoying its gridiron success, it's also axing
six intercollegiate sports, as part of efforts to save money after
the state cut more than $66 million in school funding. At the same
time, more of the money that is available is going into the
football program.

The decision to cut some sports programs while boosting funding
for the football program has raised some eyebrows among
legislators, including Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr.,
D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
He said he's as big a football fan as anyone, but he questioned why
Rutgers can't support all of its sports.

"Once you pull the plug on these six sports, they're never
coming back," Diegnan said.

The sports to go are men's heavyweight crew, men's lightweight
crew, men's fencing, men's swimming and diving, men's tennis and
women's fencing.

Adam Pantel, 18, from Mendham, loves fencing so much he says he
wouldn't have gone to Rutgers if it hadn't had a team competing in
the sport. Now, he and his fellow fencing team members try not to
talk about the situation as they gather to practice in an old
university gym in New Brunswick.

"We just try to have the best season we can every year, of
course. But this year, so much more. It might be our last chance,"
Pantel said.

Rutgers athletics officials have said the cuts are needed
because the university can't support a total of 30 intercollegiate
sports and ensure their excellence. They've said eliminating the
sports will save about $800,000 the first year.

But at the same time they're cutting some sports, overall
athletic spending has increased.

Since Robert E. Mulcahy III took over as athletic director in
1998, spending has nearly doubled, from $23.5 million in the
1998-99 fiscal year to about $41 million in 2005-06. But the money
has not been spread evenly, with much going to football and other
high-profile sports.

Football spending has grown from $6.3 million, or 26.8 percent
of the budget, in 1998-99, to $13 million, or 31.7 percent, in
2005-06, said Rutgers athletics spokesman John Wooding.

A Rutgers report to the U.S. Department of Education for the
2004-05 year, the latest available, shows the football program
breaking even with $10.7 million in revenue. But that included
nearly $3 million in university support and student fees, Wooding

Some notable examples of football spending:

• Including incentives, head football coach Greg Schiano is set
to make more than $1 million this year. The money comes from both
public and private sources.

• The university has spent millions on new football facilities,
including $12.5 million for a recent expansion and renovation of
the team's training center.

• Rutgers last year spent $175,000 to keep the team in a local
hotel for six home games, a move meant to make it easier for the
team to focus on the game.

Rutgers received $1.25 million for last year's Insight Bowl
appearance, its first bowl appearance in decades. But after paying
for everyone to go to the game, including players, coaching staff,
additional university officials and family members, the university
was $19,000 in the red.

Mulcahy argues that the team's success shouldn't be measured
just in financial terms but also by the attention it draws to the

"Athletics, and in this case football, can be the front porch
for the university," Mulcahy said. "The amount of exposure that
Rutgers has received since the appearance at the Insight Bowl last
December and through the season has been staggering."

In trying to create a moneymaking program, Rutgers has the
advantage of being the only "serious football school" in the
greater New York area, said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics
professor at Smith College in Massachusetts who has studied college

"If they play their cards right, they could catch a
particularly large market," Zimbalist said.

In the long run, success at football will determine whether
Rutgers is able to support other sports, Zimbalist said.

"If the football program pays off, it will help the other
sports. If it doesn't, it will drain the other sports," Zimbalist

Many of the nation's elite college football programs make extra
money that is often funneled into other sports programs. But
Rutgers would likely need years of winning teams and successful
marketing to achieve a similar result, said Gary Roberts, director
of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University in New Orleans.

"To really compete at the same level as Michigan and Ohio State
and, really, Louisville, they're really going to have to spend a
ton of money," Roberts said.