I’ve written before about how strange Rutgers University’s finances have become. This is the school that in 2010 refused to give employees scheduled raises due to “extreme fiscal crisis” and then proceeded to spend $30,000 so Nobel prize-winning writer Toni Morrison could be its commencement speaker. Then in 2011 Rutgers decided pay the retiring president $335,000 a year for the rest of his life.

All of this pales when compared to its athletic spending, however. According to an article by Curtis Eichelberger and Elise Young at Blolomberg:

Rutgers athletic teams cost… [each student] almost $1,000 this year, the most among schools competing in the top category of college football. The total includes mandatory student fees and university funding of the money-losing sports program, both of which rose more than 40 percent in five years. That’s enough to buy meals for more than a month, or books for a semester, or student health insurance for almost a year.

Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg for the fiscal year ended last June. It was at least the second straight year at the top of the list for the state university of New Jersey, despite cost-cutting after lawmakers and faculty protested that academics were losing out.

While the faculty recently got the school’s board to reduce general budget support for athletics, Eichelberger and Young explain that the $19.4 million Rutgers provides to athletics form the school’s general budget is enough “to hire about 256 assistant professors or 132 full professors.”

At the same time faculty managed to get general support down, student fees going to athletics increased this year, to $9.3 million.

Rutgers students pay some of the highest college athletic fees in the country.

Rutgers President President Richard McCormick says it’s worth it. According to the article he explained that,

Rutgers’ investment in athletics, which continues to be less than 1 percent of the overall university budget, returns dividends through increased revenue, positive branding, exposure and visibility for our university and the State of New Jersey….. A revenue-generating athletics program with a commitment to stabilize and reduce university support clearly benefits the entire university.

“Revenue generating” is a matter of debate, however. He apparently declined to place a dollar amount on “positive branding, exposure and visibility for our university and the State of New Jersey.”

The athletic program itself, like those of most other schools, loses money, a lot of it. In 2010, for instance, the Rutgers athletic spent $26.8 million more than it brought in. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer