It was a sea of scarlet.
Rutgers University’s newly expanded football stadium was jammed with 52,737 boisterous fans for the 2009 home opener against the Cincinnati Bearcats, a sellout crowd that brought in $1.6 million in ticket sales, shattering attendance records.
More than 30,500 of the fans had bought season tickets, including 892 who shelled out hundreds of dollars for new luxury club seats, built to attract wealthy supporters and potential donors. A new state-of-the art scoreboard adorned the southern end zone like a resplendent trophy. Despite the eventual loss, there was an optimistic energy in the air.
That heady day seems long ago now.
Despite winning on the field this year, Rutgers football and its broader athletic program are among the biggest money losers in the nation, a Star-Ledger analysis shows, and the situation may be getting worse. The shortfall last year forced the university to divert millions of dollars from student fees, tuition and state tax dollars to cover the $64.2 million it spent to run its 24-sport athletic program, records reveal.