Is this why tuition keeps going up?

While Rutgers University was tightening its financial belt amid a "fiscal emergency" during the pandemic in 2020, the athletic department went on a spending spree, according to a report by The Daily Targum.

The student newspaper's review of purchasing orders showed that expenditures by the Athletic Department during fiscal year 2021 increased by 13% over the previous year. According to The Daily Targum report, sports revenue were anticipated to drop 30% because most events were held without fans.

Among the athletic department  expenditures during that period discovered by The Daily Targum:

  • $24,000 for upgrades to the football coaches offices including a $3,100 television
  • $12,400 on a "power nap" machine
  • $4,692 for 10 later pointer remotes for football coaches
  • $4,400 for car service on June 14, 2020 for a track athlete

In his address to the Senate and General Assembly in October 2020, University President Jonathan Holloway said the school was facing "the most significant and substantial shortfall in the university’s history" resulting in a deficit of $97 million. 6,000 workers had been furloughed and senior administrators took voluntarily pay cuts.

Holloway said the school put a freeze on discretionary spending related to university operations, a continued prohibition on business travel, an ongoing suspension of new capital construction projects and a review of all active projects.

Rutgers this year raised tuition by 2.6%, to $15,804 a semester for an undergraduate student who is a resident of the state.

Rutgers Athletics spokesman Hasim Phillips sent New Jersey 101.5 a response Thursday evening. It did not address the specific expenditures cited by the Daily Targum's report.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Rutgers-New Brunswick Athletics revenues was enormous. The major and unforeseeable drop in ticket revenues was due largely to COVID restrictions prohibiting fans at all of our basketball and football games. That prohibition exacerbated revenue losses in a season featuring men’s basketball making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years. We rightly expected a significant increase in ticket sales for SHI Stadium with an exciting and well-known football coach and for the RAC where the men’s basketball team performed at a level that could have assured high ticket demand throughout the season. Cancelled games during the football season reduced the income coming from the conference’s TV contracts, as well.

Meanwhile, Rutgers met its contractual obligations related to salaries and benefits for Athletics staff, including negotiated raises and an increase in health and pension benefits.
The pandemic presented challenges for all university units, including Athletics. The athletics department responded to these financial challenges with voluntary salary reductions and the careful examination of all operating expenses. All purchases were reviewed in accordance with university spending guidelines to determine their necessity for Rutgers to excel in competition and meet our obligations as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Exceptions are made for medical and other reasons.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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