NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Over the past three months, the Rutgers University Board of Governors held three special meetings to approve contracts for highly-paid employees, including a new University President.
The board approved an eight-year, $4 million-per-year contract for the football coach and a contract extension for the current basketball coach which could see him making up to $3.75 million per season by 2025.
By contrast, the Board of Governors hired Dr. Jonathan Scott Holloway as its next University President at a salary of $780,000, up about $75,000 from what they pay outgoing President Dr. Robert “Bob” Barchi.
The most recent special meeting, on February 28, was to vote on a contract extension for basketball coach Steve Pikiell, where the Rutgers Board used their time-tested tactic of not showing up to their own meeting, instead phoning it in for what amounted to be an extremely brief “public” meeting.
Zero members of the public had signed up to speak, as the board requires speakers to sign up at least 24 hours before the meeting, and provided just 48 hours notice to the public of the meeting.
The board gave no advanced notice to the public they would be voting on extending and expanding Pikiell’s contract, as the announcement simply referred to an “open session on an employment contract” with no mention on what position the board would actually be voting on.
On January 21, board members showed up in person to hire Dr. Jonathan Scott Holloway to assume the President position effective July 1, but the entire board phoned in the two other votes on conference calls.
Holloway, the school’s first non-white President, will be paid significantly less than the two sports coaches whose contracts were approved in the bizarre “public” meetings where no public board members showed up.
While football coach Greg Schiano and basketball coach Steve Pikiell stand to make multiple millions of dollars each year under their new contracts, the new President will make less despite being the school’s top official.
Rutgers agreed to pay Holloway a salary of $780,000 per year for the prestigious job which also includes an on-campus home in Piscataway, though he will be eligible for some bonuses, guaranteed other bonuses, and allowed to collect more from outside corporate board positions.
Holloway is originally from Alabama and a respected historian who focuses on African-American issues. He currently serves as provost at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Before taking the provost job in 2017, Holloway played football with US Senator Cory Booker at Stanford University, and got an advanced degree in history at Yale University, where he went on to teach and become a dean.
The hirings of Schiano and Holloway both mark big changes for Rutgers, a major institution founded in 1766 that has grown to over 70,000 students and spends more than $4 billion each year.
Holloway will replace the retiring Robert “Bob” Barchi, who became President in September 2012 and led the university through several athletics-related scandals, a failed attempt to bring Condoleezza Rice in as a paid commencement speaker, and oversaw the merger of the school with much of the former University of Medicine & Dentistry of NJ.
At one point early in his tenure, Barchi came under fire for moonlighting in multiple lucrative positions on boards of corporations that did business with the University.
As we reported, Barchi was paid handsomely to serve on the boards of Covance and VWR International, and made hundreds of thousands of dollars when Covance was sold to Labcorp, another company that does business with Rutgers.
The author of this article was assaulted by a member of Barchi’s staff during an attempt to ask Barchi the deal.
Board of Governors Chairman Mark Angelson, a New York City resident, refused to answer our question about whether Holoway would be allowed to serve on corporate boards like Barchi.
“Shame on you, sir,” Angelson told this reporter after persistent requests for an answer were ignored or denied.
After more than a half-dozen inquiries, a Rutgers spokesperson finally provided a “term sheet” indicating that Holloway will be allowed to work side jobs, though not as many as Barchi.
Under “Outside Activities,” the term sheet lists “Participation on one for-profit board, and not for-profit board service on the approval of the BoG.”
At least two sports coaches will be paid more than Holloway thanks to agreements the Board of Governors approved over the phone.
The highest-paid post was filled seven weeks earlier when the board voted to re-hire former football coach Greg Schiano to his old job.
On December 3, the board approved a $32 million contract for Schiano, who left the school’s football team to go pro in 2012.
Schiano can also achieve bonuses if he achieves certain goals, and unless he is fired with cause or takes another football-related job, Rutgers will have to pay the more than 76% of the contract that was “guaranteed,” which could result in Schiano being paid long after he is fired.
The base salary alone for Schiano is $4 million per year for eight years, making him the highest-paid public employee in New Jersey.
He won 59 games and lost 58 during his time at Rutgers, before leaving the position abruptly. He is still widely credited with turning the team around.
Barchi called Schiano “one of the greatest football coaches that we’ve ever had” and spoke fondly of the “eleven years that he served here at Rutgers.”
But ever since the university’s high-stakes leap into the Big Ten athletic conference, the football program has been outmatched almost every game.
The team has also become even more of a financial boondoggle, with Schiano’s two successors each being fired after suffering huge losses to teams that were figuratively out of Rutgers’ league.
A handful of people, including this reporter, signed up to speak in person to to the Board of Governors that day, only to find the entire group of powerful men and women didn’t show.
Instead, twelve members of the board were present only through their ominous voices, blaring over a speakerphone into the Winants Hall board room.
Pleas to reject the proposed contract, and questions from the author of this article, fell on deaf ears, and the board declined to explain the details or the contract or answer substantive questions before voting as this reporter continued to demand answers.
It was a “fitting” end to the “rubber stamp” meeting, according to a columnist for the Asbury Park Press.
Others felt that the media was at least partly to blame for drumming up support for Schiano’s return, trumpeted at a press conference featuring Governor Phil Murphy where New Brunswick Today was not welcome.
Bob Braun, a former Star-Ledger reporter wrote that part of the blame rests with his former news outlet, which now goes by the name NJ Advance Media, and is best known as NJ.com.
“The rushed, phoned-in, secret… vote by the politically compromised Rutgers board of governors follows an unspeakably shameful corruption of journalistic ethics by The Star-Ledger that created the lie that virtually everyone in the state wanted this outright theft from the people,” Braun wrote in a Facebook post.
It was the second time that the Rutgers board had used the tactic of not showing up. President Barchi, an “ex-oficio” non-voting member of the Board of Governors, was the only member physically present for a complicated and controversial deal with RWJBarnabas Health Systems on July 23, 2019.
Editor’s Note: The author of this article has an active lawsuit against four members of the Rutgers Board of Governors for violating the NJ First Act, including Chairman Mark Angelson.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.