Rutgers Debt Scandal: How Did It Happen?


Carl J. Asszony

Thanks to the dedicated and persevering efforts of investigative journalists Jean Timbach and Abbot Koloff of and the USA TODAY Network, the hidden financial transactions at Rutgers University would not have been made public.

Rimbach and Koloff’s special report revealed that Rutgers:

  • Adopted deceptive accounting policies
  • Millions of dollars borrowed despite university policy
  • Loans recognized as income
  • Hidden their massive debt of $ 265 million – over a quarter of a billion

It all started when Rutgers decided to join the Big Ten Conference. The Rutgers administration believed joining the conference would help fill the college coffers. Instead, the sports department, and the soccer team in particular, has become a financial sinkhole. State taxpayer money, tuition, compulsory tuition, and millions and millions of dollars in loans have been used to subsidize the sports department and build new facilities.

If Rutgers’ board of directors was not aware of these transactions, they have defaulted on their obligations. If they knew about the ever-growing debt, they were complicit. In both cases, they must be replaced. Agents involved in the financial mess should also be fired. If new Rutgers chairman Jonathon Holloway was aware of mismanagement of funds and accounting manipulation, he too should be replaced.

What we found:Rutgers athletic debt: here are the main takeaways from the survey project

A college or university is supposed to prepare our young people to become the future leaders of the country. Unfortunately, this financial fiasco sends the message that if you are a varsity athlete you deserve special treatment and it’s okay to alter financial records to hide massive growing debt as long as you don’t get caught.

Rutgers's Isaih Pacheco runs in the first half as Temple faced Rutgers in the season opener at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, NJ on September 4, 2021.

Is this the lesson we want to teach the young students and our returning veterans who are enrolled at Rutgers to improve their lives? What happened to the honesty and transparency of a public institution?

Football coach Schiano has an annual salary of $ 4 million for 8 years, along with other lucrative benefits. Assistant football coaches receive between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million a year, despite the university having more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the hole. Since 2015, sports department salaries have increased by 90%. While those in the sports department ran to the bank with their pockets full of cash, hundreds of those in university departments and other fields were fired or put on leave.

Holloway said the current situation is unsustainable, but has no idea how to pay off the crushing debt or stop the bleeding of money for athletics. The state can’t bail out Rutgers – he already has billions in debt and taxpayers are already overburdened. After seeing how poorly Rutgers was managing its finances, it is possible that donations will decrease, and if compulsory tuition and tuition fees are increased, many young people could choose another university. Rutgers is in a very difficult financial situation.

As a veteran who used his GI Bill to get a college degree at Rutgers, as a senior citizen who pays state taxes, part of which funds Rutgers, and as a resident of New Jersey, I am disappointed that Rutgers University is deliberately and secretly getting so deeply in debt, and then trying to cover it up in “creative” accounting. This was not done to improve education but to bet on potential future gains.

The poet Robert Burns wrote: “The best plans of mice and men often go astray.”

It seems Rutgers University has strayed far, far away.

Carl J. Asszony, a longtime New Jersey veterans advocate, can be contacted at

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