The University of Wisconsin athletic department is preparing for a return to capacity crowds starting in the fall, even as it recognizes the possibility of fan hesitance when it comes to attending games in person in 2021-22.
As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, the department's proposed operating budget of nearly $129 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year was a 7.5 percent decrease from what the department originally planned to spend this year before the coronavirus became a factor.
"We do hedge a little bit and did build in a little bit of a discount here, knowing that there will be some portion of our fans who won't be ready to come back into the stadium yet," chief financial officer Adam Barnes said, as reported by the State Journal.
On Wednesday, Barns also told the athletic board's Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee that revenues from licensing, Big Ten media distributions, sponsorship, concessions, camps and concerts aren't expected to immediately get back to what UW had before the pandemic.
Wisconsin was among schools initially predicting a potential $100 million shortfall during the current fiscal year due to worst-case-scenario, pandemic-related disruption — including cancelation of the football season, which ultimately was avoided. The actual shortfall stood at $47 million in January, and has narrowed further to $35 million this month, the State Journal reported. The update reflected higher-than-expected revenue from Big Ten Conference television rights and deeper cuts to expenses.
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Non-sports departments were kept to the essential-spending-only limits that have been in place this year. Barnes said teams were asked to keep expenses flat and look for savings on travel costs by encouraging regional competition.
"We examined every expense line, basically, with our department heads and our coaches in order to come up with an operating expense budget that we think helps us continue to achieve the mission," Barnes said. "And I think we've done that."