It’s The Secrecy, Stupid!

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By Michael M. Shapiro

Rutgers is, once again, making news; however, this time it is not favorable. The Star-Ledger recently reported that Rutgers head football coach, Greg Schiano, negotiated a number of side deals which would induce him to remain committed to the university.

The deals include a new football stadium to be built by Rutgers by next year or the release of Schiano from his contract without penalty should the stadium not be built. He would also receive $250,000 in additional compensation channeled through a vendor so that it would not appear on the university’s books. This is besides his $2 million annual contract, various bonuses for meeting certain milestones, free land given by the university on which Schiano could build a home, an $800,000 interest-free loan for Schiano that is being forgiven at a rate of $100,000 per year for every year he stays at Rutgers, and free unlimited use of a helicopter and a jet.

Meanwhile, the Rutgers Board of Governors voted in early July to increase tuition 8.5% next year, raising tuition, room and board to over $21,000 per year for a full-time in-state student.

While the costs to New Jersey taxpayers and Rutgers students for Coach Schiano’s deals are high, they are not considered to be unusual when compared to what other successful college football coaches are receiving throughout the nation. Rutgers’ commitment to big-time college football began years ago. The ability to retain Coach Schiano, the recently successful Rutgers football team, and the outstanding recruits during the past few years are the fruits of that commitment.

While one may legitimately question the University’s priorities, given massive budget shortfalls and high annual tuition increases, the desire to turn the football program into a marquee one is a goal that is shared by many residents of New Jersey, alums and non-alums alike.

The Schiano deals run afoul because they were done secretly and remained so until the recent Star-Ledger story. Secrecy can be defended in private industry and perhaps even private universities, but not at a public university that is funded, at least in part, by state monies paid for by all New Jersey taxpayers. While most conversations about Schiano’s deals have hinged on their alleged exorbitance, the secrecy aspect of them has not been adequately addressed.

Why were these deals made and kept under wraps? Are there other monetary arrangements at the university that are similarly being kept from the public? Who knew about these agreements and when did they know it? What kind of discussion, if any, was held by the university’s fiduciaries regarding these deals? Is Rutgers alone in offering undisclosed arrangements or is this an issue that extends to other state educational institutions? These questions demand answers and the public has a right to know how their precious tax dollars are being spent.

To clear the air and rebuild public trust in our state university, a thorough investigation of its budget allocations and practices must take place by a respected and neutral party. In addition, spot audits of other publicly-funded institutions in New Jersey should similarly be undertaken to learn whether Rutgers is alone in its budgetary practices or if it is but a bit-player in a much larger problem.

Only through such efforts will our taxpayers learn the extent of the problem at Rutgers and beyond and whether and how it must be resolved so that confidence in the financial integrity of the university can be restored.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of ShapTalk.com, is an attorney who resides in New Providence. He currently serves as the editor of The Alternative Press, www.thealternativepress.com Contact Mike at mike@shaptalk.com


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