By Jason Marsteller
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 17. ALTHOUGH the reasoning behind the Rutgers University cuts has already been debunked in recent articles, there is one travesty that sticks out the most. Rutgers chose to execute the program most loved by one of its biggest donors: former men’s swimming manager David “Sonny” Werblin.
A self-made man, Werblin founded the New York Jets after originally buying the New York Titans in 1963 and renaming the NFL football franchise. The 1997 Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey inductee also served as vice president of the Music Corporation of America.
Shortly before Werblin’s death in 1991, Rutgers opened the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center in honor of the 1931 graduate from the university. The facility is a state-of-the-art 150,000 square foot building that houses a multi-purpose room, studio cycling area, and the Rutgers Aquatics Center. The Aquatics Center has a 50-meter Olympic pool, a 10-meter diving tower and a recreational pool.
Now, 15 years after Werblin’s death, Rutgers University is using the excuse of financial difficulty to cut the one program at the center of Werblin’s lifelong devotion to Rutgers. This disgusting action will cut the men’s program while keeping the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center asset in place. More alarming is that the center will continue to fill the university’s coffers with revenue from outside members who pay up to $325 per year to continue to use a facility we assume is fully paid for.
While this outright betrayal of one’s donation should turn the stomach of anyone watching on the sideline, an even more maddening fact can only exacerbate that indigestion.
In December of 2000, Werblin’s son Thomas, a vice president of the New York City-based Werblin Foundation, donated $1 million to Rutgers over a five-year period. As per an article by Harvey Trabb of the Rutgers Focus trumpeting the gift, it helped the university establish “two new fully endowed scholarships under the Werblin Endowed Scholarship fund. Werblin Scholarships provide financial assistance to members of the men's and women's golf and swimming teams. The gift will also provide funds to support future expansion needs at the university's football complex and Louis Brown Athletic Center, and the creation of a new multipurpose room in the university's Werblin Recreation Center.”
Where is the men’s swimming and diving endowment scholarship money going to go now? The Rutgers Board of Governors needs to answer this question, among plenty of others.
Now that the $1 million gift is about to run its course five years later, Rutgers is dropping the axe on the men’s swimming and diving program – that same program that spurred the initial gift in the first place. Coincidence? More importantly, what message is Rutgers sending to its future donors? For those donors out there considering donating funds to a school like Rutgers, which appears to have no problem turning its back on the wishes and intents of past donors such as Sonny Werblin, you had better ask if your university will be a good steward for your hard-earned dollars.
Perhaps there is a bigger issue here after all than just cutting men’s swimming!