Michigan Fans Donate Millions in Lieu of Ticket Refunds

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University of Michigan football season-ticket holders have donated $5.9 million to university athletics, according to the athletic department.

In lieu of refunds or rolling their 2020 ticket payments and preferred seat contributions after the Big Ten Conference announced that no fans would be admitted to a shortened schedule this fall, 3,580 season-ticket holders — 16 percent of all season-ticket holders — donated their 2020 investments to the athletic department. Donations ranged from $75 to $38,792, according to UM figures cited by the Detroit Free Press.

The generosity is welcome, but dwarfed by the athletics budget deficits facing Michigan and other Big Ten member schools. 

Before the return of college football, UM athletic director Warde Manuel said that the athletic department could face up to $100 million in lost revenue. He wrote to fans in August asking for donations, saying that the department budgeted $61 million less in revenues this year — a figure he believed could double if no sports were played. And in June, he projected a $26.1 million deficit in his annual budget proposal to the university's Board of Regents.

Since then, the department announced 21 layoffs in addition to a hiring freeze that Manuel said has resulted in 15 unfilled positions. The athletic department has also implemented "comprehensive salary freezes and salary reductions ranging between 5 and 10 percent for most employees," while lowering operating and team budgets. Those who have accepted salary reductions include Manuel, football coach Jim Harbaugh and men's basketball coach Juwan Howard, who each accepted 10 percent cutbacks.

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