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Big Spending on Athletics at Rutgers Targeted by In-Depth HBO Report

"Real Sports" Segment Focuses on College Athletics Arms Race That Cost RU $312M
"Real Sports"
Rutgers Professors Mark Killingsworth and David Hughes on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" ran a episode on April 19 that heavily featured the Rutgers athletics department.

One segment of the episode, "Arm$ Race," explores the excessive athletics spending on campuses across the country.

The segment included many alarming statistics about the athletics spending on campus. For example, in the past twelve years, Rutgers athletics programs have cost taxpayers and tuition-payers $312 million dollars more than they brought into the school's coffers.

Rutgers has also spent $6 million in severance payments to fired coaches and athletics directors over the past three years.

Correspondent Jon Frankel interviewed Dr. Mark Killingsworth, a professor of economics at Rutgers, and Dr. David Hughes, an anthropology professor and president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the faculty union.

"The Board of Governors has written the athletics program a blank check," said Killingsworth, calling the situation a "nightmare."

He points out that "the football coach's salary was raised by $200,000 virtually the same week they announced the library's budget was being cut by $500,000."

In 2014 alone, over $26 million was siphoned from academic programs to cover the athletic department's debts. Hughes cites canceling classes "left and right" as a consequence of that loss.

The "Real Sports" episode also investigates beyond the Rutgers campus, discussing what Frankel calls "an all-out arms race [that has] gripped American colleges."

Despite the perceived importance of sports on campuses, only 24 Division I schools (out of over 300 institutions) turn a profit on their athletics programs.

One questionable spending practice highlighted in the segment was the school paying for football teams to stayi at hotels on or near campus on nights before home games.

The Rutgers football team stays at the New Brunswick Hyatt before home games, to the tune of $26,000 a game.

The segment also tells the story of Paul Quinn College, a struggling college whose president decided to cut football entirely and turn the football field into a farm where students could work for tuition credits.

For that reason, among others, enrollment more than doubled in six years, and a college that less than ten years ago had literally lost its accredidation is today running six- and seven-figure surpluses.

Frustrations with athletics spending on campus are mounting, as students are demanding tuition be lowered for the first time in recent memory.  The demand follows decades of steep increases in cost of attendance, growing class sizes and cancellations, and the increasing use of part-time lecturers instead of full-time professors.