Holloway: It’s ‘highly unlikely’ Rutgers Athletics will turn profit — and that’s OK

President, in speech to faculty Senate, expresses support for sports at school

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway said what many have known all along: The Rutgers Athletics program may never turn a profit.

The comments, made in a speech to the faculty Senate last Friday (and reported by New Jersey Advance Media), were as much about the belief he has in the value of athletics as a response to the $73.3 million deficit the sports department had in 2020-21, when the pandemic greatly reduced the school’s ability to raise revenue.

Holloway set the record straight.

Jonathan Holloway. (File photo)

“For too long, the entire Rutgers community has been laboring under the illusion that Athletics will generate enough revenue to pay for itself, and then, in time, turn a profit,” he said in his remarks.

“Let me disabuse you of that claim. While I would be thrilled if Athletics were to cover all of its expenses, it is highly unlikely that it will.”

Holloway said he believes the sports programs are run the right way — with an equal emphasis on academics.

“What deepens my support for athletics at Rutgers is that we have coaches who are strongly committed to integrity and to seeing their players graduate,” he told the faculty. “I take great pride in the fact that we have one of the top-performing athletic programs in the country in terms of academic performance. I hope you share in that pride.”

Holloway also addressed those who believe athletics are the cause of Rutgers’ financial issues.

“For those who remain dissatisfied and would prefer to see the athletics program dissolved in order to redirect funds elsewhere in the university, keep in mind that Athletics represents 2% of the operating budget,” he said. “Put another way, dissolving Athletics would not solve our budget challenges.”

The role of sports at Rutgers has been discussed for decades — or long before Rutgers joined the Big Ten prior to the 2014-15 school year.

Rutgers spent just under $119 million to fund its athletics program during the most recent academic year, according to financial records.

And it produced a lot of success on and off the field.

In 2021, Rutgers enjoyed its most success since joining the Big Ten.

  • Both its men’s and women’s basketball teams reached the NCAA Tournament, the first time in three decades for the men (who had a conceivable shot at the Final Four before losing a big lead in their Sweet 16 game);
  • The men’s basketball team appears to be on the verge of another NCAA Tournament bid;
  • Both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams reached the NCAA Tournament;
  • The women’s soccer team reached the final of the NCAA Tournament;
  • Two wrestlers reached the semifinals of their weight class in the NCAA Tournament, earning All-American status;
  • The football team went to the Gator Bowl, despite finishing the season below .500. The bid was earned because of the program’s record of academic success.

And, while Holloway said Rutgers may never break even on sports, it could be in line for a big payday.

The Big Ten’s television rights come up for a bid at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Those rights could go for more than twice what they are worth now — and, now, they pay each school $40 million annually.