NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—As Rutgers University enters the NCAA Big 10 Conference, a series of controversies has beset the athletics department, ranging from financial issues to outright abuse of student players.
Most recently, however, a new tragedy has occurred involving Philip Nelson, a recent Rutgers Football pick up, who transferred from the University of Minnesota during this offseason.
On May 14, Nelson, 20, was dismissed from the Rutgers Football team in lieu of an assault charge in his hometown of Mankato, MN.
Phillip Nelson, who was contending for the starting quarterback spot on the Rutgers team in 2015, transferred to the Hub City school from Minnesota, where he was a already a starting player.
Now, Nelson is currently charged with first-degree and third-degree assault on a fellow football player at Minnesota State, Isaac Kolstad, 24, and could potentially face up to 25 years in prison.
Nelson was booked at Blue Earth County Jail, in Mankato, MN, shortly after being arrested. Travis Shelley was later caught and charged with throwing the punch that first brought Kolstad to the ground.
Nelson allegedly kicked the victim in the head when he was down.
Kolstad is in critical condition, suffering from a skull fracture, bleeding from the brain, as a well as brain swelling and shifting. Kolstad is also experiencing lung deterioration from oxygen deficiency.
According to the presiding physician, the fracture occurred on the left side of head, whereas the police report stated that Nelson kicked Kolstad.
Currently, Kolstad has undergone two operations and had a significant percentage of dead brain tissue removed, according to NJ.com. Although the surgery was successful, Kolstad still remains on life support and is susceptible to further surgeries and injuries.
As a result of the charges against Nelson, Rutgers University immediately removed him from the athletics program.
Speaking to Gannett, Kyle Flood described the situation as dire, while remarking the importance of recuperating from the incident:
“This is a tragic incident at every angle. There is no positive about this situation. I certainly pray for the young man that got injured in the incident. I hope that ultimately everybody involved will be able to pick up the pieces and go forward in a positive way.”
Currently, positive incidents have been hard to come by in the Rutgers Athletics Department.
In 2013, the school’s men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, was fired from his position after a video surfaced of him abusing his players by yelling at them with homophobic and racial slurs, kicking them, as well as pelting basketballs at their heads and bodies, resulting in three students transferring out of Rutgers.
But only after Athletic Director Tim Pernetti stood by the embattled coach at first, and lost his job in the process.
Pernetti’s assistant, James Martelli, also resigned over the controversy that they agreed to suspension and fine for Mike Rice, which would have only penalized him for $50,000, accounting for less than 8% of the salary he was making.
With the Rutgers Athletic Department recuperating from the player abuse scandal, there were then again hit with a storm when Rutgers University President, Robert Barchi appointed Julie Hermann as the new athletic director.
As Hermann stepped into office, she was immediately accused of verbally abusing her players when she was a coach for the women’s volleyball team at the University of Tennessee.
In May 2013, the Star Ledger published an article related to a letter written by Hermann’s 1996 team, which mentioned the abuse they claimed occurred under her tenure.
These allegations were not investigated by the Rutgers administration, nor was a case where Hermann was accused of discriminating against a pregnant assistant coach.
Hermann was involvement in a lawsuit, which resulted after she fired one her subordinate staff members at the University of Tennessee, Ginger Hineline, for being pregnant.
Hermann was captured in a video hinting that Hineline should not have children, and if she did it could be a problem.
The University paid $150,000 in the case. When asked about it by NBC New York’s Brian Thompson at her introductory press conference, Hermann denied there was a video.
On top of all the abuse allegations, Julie Hermann had to deal with another player abuse scandal last fall, in which former Rutgers Football player David Tyree, accused former Defensive Coordinator David Cohen, for verbal abuse.
Hermann also drew criticism more recently for telling students in a Rutgers Journalism students that it would be great if the Star Ledger newspaper died.
Aside from student player abuse scandals and controversial hires, Rutgers Athletics has also been criticized for its financial drain on the university.
Analysis of NCAA records done by major media outlets have shown that Rutgers University subsidizes the athletics department more than any other university in the nation, pumping $47 million into athletics this past academic year alone, a 67.9% increase from the school’s 2012 budget of $27.9 million.
Ever since Rutgers started focusing more on the athletics department, the perception has grown that those investments come at that the expense of academic departments within the university.
A $120 million football stadium expansion was rushed through with promised support from then Governor Jon Corzine, who eventually backed out of his promise to privately raise $30 million.
Meanwhile, courses were being cut and professors let go on the academic side due to financial constraints and decreasing state aid from Corzine’s administration.
Former University President Richard McCormick and the Board of Governors were accused of mismanaging the athletics department and giving too much control to then-Athletic-Director Robert Mulcahy, who had complete control of negotiating contracts for the department.
This led to the resignation of Mulcahy, who stepped down in 2009, after an independent commission determined that he was responsible for poor oversight of university expenditures.