The University of Texas at El Paso announced in September that it was furloughing employees and cutting athletic department jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by KFOX14, roughly nine in 10 employees are taking furloughs — some for nearly half the year.
"We had 98 employees — 88 are taking furloughs," said Mark McGurk, vice president for business affairs at UTEP. "We have five positions that were eliminated, and there are two vacant positions right now that they aren’t filling, so they will probably stay empty — probably for the entire fiscal year. Athletics is an auxiliary services unit, which means they have to generate their own revenues, and if they don’t generate sufficient revenues, they have to cut expenses, and that’s the purpose of the furloughs that are being undertaken by the athletics department at this point."
Furlough lengths for each employee vary, but some may last nearly half of a year.
"The furloughs range anywhere from two weeks to 24 weeks," McGurk said. "It's a decision made by the athletics department based, I suppose, on need and whether or not they could support those positions and when they needed those positions."
The situation has been complicated by recent postponements of football games. On Tuesday, Florida International University announced it would not be able to play the Miners on Saturday, marking the third time an opponent has postponed a game against UTEP in the past four weeks.
Fewer games and reduced crowds due to social distancing mandates means reduced revenue. McGurk told KFOX14 that the athletics department had no other choice.
"I would point out almost every single person in the athletics department is being affected by this," he said, adding that athletic director Jim Senter will be taking 10 days of furlough.
McGurk said that it's his understanding employees can take the furlough days throughout the remainder of the fiscal year.
"This has a major impact on them. Anyone that has to take a pay cut is going to essentially be hurt individually, and I really want people to understand that we’re doing this to try to save as many positions as possible," McGurk said. "I feel for the very hard-working and dedicated people in our athletics department that are really focused on trying to provide this entertainment for the city but also to be competitive in their sports within the league."