He writes an opinion piece in the school newspaper protesting the destruction of the university by athletics.

You’d think newspapers at Auburn and Clemson and Georgia and Montana and all of the other American universities degraded by big-time sports would feature similar professors – committed, responsible people capable of tracking and analyzing the deterioration and writing about it. Hell, many of these people have tenure, a level of job security unimaginable to most people. But – as UD discussed in what seems to have become her most famous column – for a variety of reasons, they don’t say anything.

Rutgers is an exception. William C. Dowling – a Rutgers English professor – wrote a 2007 book about how sports has long undone, and continues to undo, Rutgers. And now, with things far, far worse than when Dowling’s book came out, an economics professor there – Mark Killingworth – has described the ongoing (and, old UD will guess, ultimately failed) effort to “clean up” after its athletics mess.

A New York Times article about Dowling was written in 2007, when things looked way cool at Rutgers athletics. The author writes that “the number of undergraduate applications has risen along with Rutgers’s sporting fortunes, as have annual donations to the university.”

Really? Here’s Killingworth, 2012:

[B]ig-time University athletics hasn’t attracted more first-year students with high SAT scores, and hasn’t raised our “yield” (percentage of accepted applicants who actually attend), relative to peer institutions. Our academic rankings are sliding steadily downwards, and for two years running, our enormous athletic subsidies have landed us in the Wall Street Journal’s “football grid of shame.” This isn’t “building the brand” — it’s making us a punchline.

What happened to all them big donations and big smart students?

See, this is something sports factories don’t want to parse for you, but getting more jerks to apply to your school because they want to get pissed and join the fun is not a good trend. The state of Massachusetts has set up the University of Massachusetts Amherst to take those students.


Killingworth touches on the Rutgers board of trustees. He is far too kind, merely asking them to “rethink their priorities.” No. They are the people who killed Rutgers. Like Penn State’s trustees (UD predicts all or most of them will resign in the coming months) they should be booted. Instead of holding the university in their trust and working toward its benefit, they shat on it and created the absolute failure Killingworth describes. Out they go.

Trackback URL for this post:

2 Responses to “A Rutgers Professor Does What Professors at Sports Factories are SUPPOSED to Do.”

  1. theprofessor Says:

    When our own athletic directors and senior administrators have been pressed to explain what the payoff is for dedicating 10%+ of the university budget to the extracurricular activities of about 6-7% of the students at the very most, with guaranteed 7-figure annual operating deficits for as far as the eye can see, the last statement is always, “OK, but there’s the intangibles.” Sprinkle some intangible seasoning on it, and for half the faculty, it becomes tasty and delicious. The same thing works for vice-presidents, of which we are getting two more.

  2. Ellie Says:

    Bravo to Killingworth for speaking up, but I think there is a danger in the “just cut the subsidy” approach: once the Athletic Department gets into big-time fundraising to fill the gap, it becomes a competitor to the rest of the University for fundraising dollars. At Big Football institutions where the Athletic Department is financially self-sufficient (with the usual caveats about accounting for capital costs), athletics is also now drawing potential donors away from academics. There’s a debate about whether athletic donors would ever give to the uni otherwise, but it seems to me a fairly specious one, especially when it comes to the big-time donors who get their names on things.

    The solution needs to be an even more radical redistribution of wealth: for every dollar taken in by the Athletic Department, whether from ticket sales, sponsorship deals, or donations, $.25 (or more) goes to academics, not including the dollar value of athletic scholarships. The total expense budget of the Athletic Department needs to be fixed at some fraction of the academic budget, beyond which ceiling it may not grow. Thus, when the academic budget is cut, athletics has to share the pain.

Comment on this Entry

Latest UD posts at IHE