Coronavirus Not Financial Disaster for Colleges, Yet | Athletic Business

Coronavirus Not Financial Disaster for Colleges, Yet

Silver linings may be hard to find in a pandemic, but the disruption caused by the spread of coronavirus in the United States could have come at a much worse time for college athletic departments. At least this isn't fall.

As reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, football is the driving force that helps support most Olympic sports at NCAA Division I universities, and the hope is that the COVID-19 pandemic will be contained over the summer months and related uncertainties quelled by Labor Day. That's little consolation to spring sports student-athletes unable to practice and compete, but athletic department finances won't be decimated as a result of widespread cancellations.

"If anything, this saves us money," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director Mark Wharton said last Friday. "The bus trips and hotel rooms and the meals don't exist anymore, but we were hoping to build momentum in several of our sports."

The UTC men's and women's basketball teams will both miss out on postseason participation. As for spring sports, Wharton said UTC will be refunding some tickets in softball, the only ticketed sport left for the Mocs during the school year, with the others being football, men's basketball, women's basketball, wrestling and volleyball.

Though the immediate impact of an upended spring schedule may seem slight, Wharton worries about future ramifications.

"Schools at our level receive a disbursement from the NCAA, and it's the revenues off of their three money makers — March Madness, the CFP and now college wrestling," Wharton said. "You've had one of those that's actually happened. They've come out and said that the disbursements won't change, but will it change in year two or year three?

"Those are the concerns I have long-term for our program."

At least one powerhouse athletic department is likewise downplaying the financial aspect of the virus.

"Candidly, the revenue that we would generate from our spring sports is welcome and is not a significant number," said Scott Stricklin, athletic director at the University of Florida, which claims the number-one ranking in baseball. "We're going to work with our season-ticket holders and ticket holders in general for these sports to refund through our ticket office between now and April 15th. If that gets extended, we will do the same, but that's not a significant number right now." 

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