Rutgers Defends Football Team's $450K DoorDash Tab | Athletic Business

Rutgers Defends Football Team's $450K DoorDash Tab

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An ongoing investigation by the Bergen Record into how much Rutgers University spends on its football program revealed that, for more than a year, Scarlet Knight football players have been entitled to free DoorDash food deliveries, paid for by the university — and ultimately New Jersey taxpayers.

As reported by Patch.com, citing the Record's investigative efforts, football players racked up a bill of more than $450,000 from DoorDash.

Meanwhile, the Rutgers athletic department operated at a $73 million deficit spanning 2021 and 2022.

From May 2021 through June of this year, Rutgers football players ordered more than $450,000 in takeout meals from restaurants, plus deliveries from convenience stores and pharmacies, NorthJersey.com found, in a review of financial records from the Rutgers athletics department.

Rutgers did not dispute the $450,000 bill. Rutgers also said the practice of football players and other athletes being allowed free meal deliveries still continues on campus today. But starting in late June, the school switched to GrubHub, citing its cheaper costs. Also, GrubHub will be limited to delivering food and beverages only — excluding non-food items delivered from stores and pharmacies.

Rutgers officials said they started allowing the athletes to expense DoorDash deliveries during the pandemic, as NCAA rules required athletes to quarantine for up to two weeks if they tested positive for coronavirus, or had been exposed.

"During the pandemic, the NCAA issued a COVID Q&A guide for institutions to follow regarding many different aspects of NCAA legislation/rules, including student-athlete welfare and benefits for student-athletes," the athletic department said in a statement. "Our institution was permitted to use DoorDash based on this guidance to allow institutions to provide boxed food delivery services or food-related gift cards to a student-athlete who was required to remain at home, return home or who was otherwise unable to access campus due to COVID.

"Many of our student-athletes come from economically challenged backgrounds and in addition to how difficult it was to meet their nutritional needs with COVID, this was the best way to look out for our student-athletes’ welfare,. We continued to use DoorDash until June 2022 to provide to-go meal options to student-athletes in instances when a permissible meal was not otherwise available or provided. DoorDash was used as a substitute for institutional meals when student-athletes were in quarantine or participating in team activities such as rehab, practice and competition, and food was not provided in the facility."

A review of receipts found that football players placed lavish orders from Outback Steakhouse and Red Lobster, plus pizza, tacos, chicken wings and Chinese food, oftentimes from restaurants near their hometowns across the U.S. — not near the Rutgers campus.

"In one case, a player placed orders a thousand miles apart on the same day, in Florida and New York — and then continued to make orders in Florida for two more days," the Bergen Record found.

The Rutgers faculty union said the $450,000 DoorDash bill shows how much Rutgers pours into its football program, which continually operates at a loss — while refusing to give professors raises in the past few years and laying off adjunct faculty.

"Everybody else at Rutgers has to follow strict rules and jump through a hundred hoops around expenses like these, but apparently the rules don't apply to the athletics program or the top administrators who oversee it," Rebecca Givan, a Rutgers professor and president of the Rutgers faculty union, told Patch.com on Thursday. "And at the same time, the administration tells us they don't have the money for urgent needs, like a central program to guarantee funding extensions for graduate students whose work was disrupted by the pandemic. This scandal isn't the fault of the players, who aren't properly compensated for what is effectively a full-time job playing a very dangerous sport. Our problem is with the administration's upside-down priorities."

Also, Rutgers said it was not just its football players, but many student-athletes on campus who have been allowed to get DoorDash meals delivered for free.

"DoorDash was made available to other teams provided that adequate funding was available in their budgets," the athletic department stated. "Football transitioned many of their nutritional efforts to DoorDash following research that showed a significant savings by using the service as opposed to placing one large uniform food order for the entire team."

Rutgers said the majority of student-athletes who were entitled to the free food spent an average of $22.88 on food deliveries per month in the past year. The DoorDash program was set up to provide $75 per week and the weekly amounts were to be uploaded one week at a time. At the conclusion of that week, unused funds were wiped clear. There were no individual transaction limits.

"Over 14 months there were roughly 19,745 orders for student-athletes at an average monthly transaction cost of $22.88," according to the athletic department statement. "There were three student-athletes who made limited purchases of non-food items, which was outside the constraints of the program, and those have been addressed in the manner required by the NCAA."

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