University of Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks revealed Tuesday that the $55 million budget deficit that was predicted for the 2021 fiscal year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was significantly mitigated to roughly $30 million by Georgia football season-ticket holders opting out of attending games in favor of rolling their purchase into a COVID relief fund.
While the opt-out rate was 60 percent, those individuals contributed $22.1 million to the fund, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia recorded only $2.5 million in football ticket revenue as of December 2020, compared with $33.7 million in December 2019. The decrease was a result of Georgia having only three home games, and each at approximately 20 percent of the stadium’s capacity of 92,746. Brooks said Georgia also was able to cut back by 27 percent on operating expenses by spending money only on outlays considered “mission critical.”
Fan generosity doesn't end there. According to Brooks, Georgia’s development office has raised $71.5 million in donations and pledges toward the new $80 million football operations facility being added to the Butts-Mehre athletics complex. Phase I of that construction project will be completed in late April, with Phase II scheduled for completion in January.
Brooks said the board voted in November for access to $24 million from the athletic association’s reserves. However, none of it was required. Georgia reported a surplus of $40 million from Fiscal Year 2020.
As for FY 2022, which runs from July 1 of this summer to June 30, 2022, UGA’s financial picture will be dictated by whether a full football schedule will be played before capacity crowds. The university is tentatively planning on Sanford Stadium being filled to capacity.
’'We’ve got to be ready for all scenarios. We’ve learned that we can pivot quickly, so I think the first step is, we’re gonna plan as if we’re going to have full stadiums. We’re going to be ready,” Brooks said during a question-and-answer period Tuesday, as reported by WTOC in Savannah. “We can’t commit to a budget right now until we know where we sit next fall. So we’re gonna have to play a lot of that by ear. But we’ve proven that we can pivot quickly, so the plan is to have full stadiums and then we’ll adjust from there. But there’s not going to be a situation where we can guarantee any budgeted amount because we just don’t know. We’ve got to plan for the best and we can adjust from there.’'