Planning for Possible Impact of Altered Football Season

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Football is the economic engine of most college athletics programs — with ticket sales, media deals and sponsorships helping to boost the bottom line. But with the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing coronavirus crisis, some athletic directors are at least beginning to consider the possible budget hit of what an altered football season might mean.

USA Today reports that although there is no indication yet of any disruptions to college football in the upcoming season, some major programs are looking ahead to fiscal year 2021 and weighing spending plans with decreased football revenues. 

“Our athletics department is one of the most fiscally efficient in the Power 5,” Washington State AD Pat Chun told USA Today via text message. “The exercise of reducing expenses for our department is complex but a mountain we are destined to climb. … The scenario of football season being impacted becomes more real by the day. The impact on our overall finances could be precarious. We are in the beginning phases of our 2020-21 budgeting process and will need to factor in a scenario that includes a negative impact on football revenues."

Kansas AD Jeff Long told USA Today that his department is doing “exploratory cutting” as it embarks on its strategic planning for the future.

“What would a 10 percent, what would a 20 percent cut in our operations look like?” Long said of the contingency plans, adding that “most of that is determined on how far and how long this crisis lasts.”

Temple AD Pat Kraft told USA Today that his department is running numbers based on a delayed football season.

“The impact would be felt not just on ticket sales but things like merchandise sales, donations and the potential impact on sponsorship and media dollar,” Kraft told USA Today. ”This is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know yet what the total impact on the department would be, but it would impact our revenue for sure.”    

Related: The Athletic Business Podcast: College Football's Attendance Problem with AJ Maestas

On top of the possibility of decreased revenues, athletics departments are also going to be dealing with additional expenses in the event that student-athletes in spring sports programs who had their seasons cut short or canceled outright due to the outbreak are granted eligibility relief. For Power 5 programs, providing an additional year of eligibility for senior student-athletes in affected sports could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

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