Blogs > Knights Notes

News, insights and analysis on the Rutgers football program

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My take on the President's review

As if yesterday wasn't busy enough with Big East media day, Rutgers president Richard McCormick announced he was creating a committee to review the athletic department. 

The committee will look into issues "including the transactions, contracts and relationships with sports marketing firms," all of which relates to recent revelations about the football program, most notably that Greg Schiano receives a $250, 000 bonus from Nelligan sports marketing in addition to his athletic department salary. It was also recently reported that Schiano has an out clause in his contract that would allow him to leave if the $102 million Rutgers Stadium expansion isn't completed next year. 

McCormick's plan for a review came a day after the state Comptroller's office announced it would investigate the department's financial practices. 

The review will be conducted by a committee co-chaired by Alred C. Koeppe, former president of PSE&G and former chairman of the New Jersey Higher Education Commission, and Albert R. Gamper, Jr., former chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors. 

My $0.02 on the situation is this: There's no question the series of recent reports embarrassed the athletic department and exposed a lack of transparency. Everyone from Rutgers faculty members to Gov. Gorzine has chided the department for not being more open about the money Schiano gets from Nelligan, and for various other instances, including the cost and timely execution of the stadium expansion. But the university (and the state Comptroller's office) is overreacting. Big time. 

No one likes to be in headlines -- especially front-page headlines -- for the wrong reasons. But some people are acting like the extra $25oK Schiano is getting is coming from the Mob. In actuality, it's essentially coming from Rutgers, but in a way that allows Mulcahy to keep it off the books and allow for a little more space in his budget. The perfect way to do things? Far, far from it. Mulcahy absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, should have  made the money public knowledge when he agreed to give it to Schiano. By not being up-front about it, he made it seem like he had something to hide. That's always how it appears when anything is exposed by reporters combing through public documents. 

So the way the deal was handled was shady. But the actual deal wasn't. 

Here's what essentially happens with the money: Rutgers pays Nelligan Sports a handsome fee to market the athletic department. Nelligan then turns around and gives $250K of that money back to Schiano. So instead of it going straight from Rutgers' budget to Schiano's bank account, it goes through Nelligan first. It's a round-about way to complete a transaction, but several other high-profile coaches have their contracts structured in similar ways. 

My message to Mulcahy? Be more transparent, and you won't have any issues. This isn't USC, where they essentially pay athletes, or Penn State, where football players have been having trouble of late staying out of the police blotter. You haven't done anything wrong, so don't make it seem like you're hiding something. 

And my message to the school and the state: Calm down. This is the way big-time athletics work. Whether you like it or not, you're going to have to deal with Schiano making a salary that dwarfs most other state employees, and you're going to realize that having a marquee football team has and will continue to enhance the school's reputation and create a stronger pool of applicants. 

If you don't realize that, you're less aware of trends in higher education than you ought to be. For instance, you're surely unaware that Boston College -- a regional institution with a student body made up primarily of Irish-Catholic kids from Eastern Massachusetts until the 1980s -- is now an institution of national prominence, with a pool of elite applicants, of all races and religions, throughout the country, in no small part because of one student named Doug Flutie, who put the school on the national map with a Heisman Trophy-winning season capped by the most memorable pass in college football history. You're also unaware that, just to cite another example from the Northeast (and the Big East) UConn skyrocketed on lists of quality state universities when it started winning national championships in men's and women's basketball. 

And how many high school kids in New England had heard of Gonzaga before its Cinderalla NCAA runs of the 90s? How many kids in Texas had heard of George Mason before it shocked the world and went to the 2006 Final Four? 

The point is, Rutgers wanted success, and it got it. 

Now it has to deal with the growing pains success brings, and the best way to deal with it isn't to further embarrass your own athletic department by acting like Mulcahy leaked classified CIA information. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rutgers fourth in media poll

Greetings from the Hotel Viking, where Big East media day is wrapping up. The Big East handed out bags designed for carrying drinks, but I used mine to carry around all the media guides I picked up. Rutgers was picked fourth in the preseason media poll, behind West Virginia, South Florida and Pitt. I don't vote (only 24 people do), but if I did, I might have considered putting the Knights ahead of Pitt. Then again, you can make a case Cincinnati and UConn, picked fifth and sixth, should be ahead of Rutgers. Here's the poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total votes next to the team names.

1) West Virginia (22) 189
2) USF (1) 149
3) Pitt (1) 128
4) Rutgers 110
5) Cincinnati 98
6) UConn 97
7) Louisville 69
8) Syracuse 24

Teams get eight points for a first-place vote and one for a last-place vote, so if you do the math, you'll notice Syracuse was the unanimous choice to finish last. 

Are you ready for some football?

OK, so the Rutgers regular season doesn't start for more than a month, but the first Knights-related football activities will take place this morning at Big East media day in Newport, R.I. 

Mike Teel, Tiquan Underwood, Courtney Greene and Kevin Malast are here along with coach Greg Schiano, and they'll talk to reporters tomorrow along with representatives from the seven other teams in the Big East. Last night the conference kicked off the festivities with a clam bake in Fort Adams State Park, on property that was once owned by President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike, apparently, had some pretty nice summer dibs: a big but not mansion-sized house on a hill overlooking the Rhode Island Sound. 

Earlier in the day, the conference held a golf scramble, and Greg Schiano was in the winning group, earning him a free set of irons. 

I went on a tour of the White House when I was in sixth grade, but other than that I'm fairly certain it was the first time I'd ever been to a house that a President ever called home. 

Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who I literally bumped into at the clam bake (actually, he kind of bumped into me by inadvertently elbowing me) will kick off the morning with some opening remarks at the Hotel Viking, and it'll be an interview-a-palooza after that. I'll check in with some news and notes on the Knights and the rest of the league. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Abdul Smith's press conference

A couple  Abdul Smith-related links: 
The press conference story
Video of the presser from

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Abdul Smith staying home

Fittingly standing in the City Hall Atrium in Trenton, Abdul Smith announced Wednesday he was joining what is already the greatest recruiting class in the history of New Jersey's state university. 
Smith, a Trenton resident and two-way standout at the Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, Pa., told about two dozen friends, teammates and reporters that he was "staying home" to become the 19th member of Rutgers' class of 2009 -- a class rated the third best in the country by 
Smith, who received 23 scholarship offers, had narrowed his choices to Rutgers, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Maryland and Boston College. Just before making the announcement, he reached into a bag and pulled out a scarlet Rutgers hat, drawing a loud round of applause. 
Rated a three-star recruit by, Smith is the ninth player from New Jersey to verbally commit to Rutgers, and the first from Mercer County.