Unlike peer institutions, the University of Wisconsin has not made any cuts to athletic department compensation or furloughed any employees as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and athletic director Barry Alvarez said Friday that's due to sustained sound money management.
“Thanks to sound management of our finances over the years, we’re well-positioned to withstand a temporary decline in revenues,” Alvarez stated during an online meeting of the UW athletic board, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Pandemic-related factors, including the cancelation of the Big Ten Conference and NCAA men's basketball tournaments, have led to projected decreases in athletic department net revenue of between $4 million and $5 million for the current fiscal year.
Where the department goes from here remains uncertain. Alvarez previously stated on his monthly radio show that there were three models in play: one with no loss of 2020-21 athletics events because of the coronavirus; one without revenue from fall sports seasons, including football; and one without fall and winter sports.
“It’s impossible to know at this point which of these scenarios will play out,” Alvarez said Friday. “There are a number of factors and assumptions that go into these projections. We’re working with campus and Big Ten leaders to inform our models.”
Ticket sales and media rights for football alone were responsible for 44 percent of the athletics revenue stream in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, so any disruption of the season that’s scheduled to begin Sept. 4 would be highly damaging to the department. The approved 2020-2021 budget was for more than $186 million, including more than $46 million in capital projects, the State Journal reported.
Alvarez also explained the department's decision to not welcome back spring sports seniors for an NCAA-granted year of eligibility in 2021, another departure from the policies of other schools.
“Given the uncertainty of the situation we all find ourselves in, we didn’t feel we should make a promise to them that we weren’t sure we could keep,” Alvarez said. “We felt it best to advise them to proceed with earning their degree, which is obviously something we place a great deal of emphasis on.”