The COVID-19 pandemic’s financial impact on colleges continues to become clearer as department heads take a look at their budgets following the fiscal year.
The Associated Press reported Friday that the University of Florida athletic department had a $54.5 million shortfall during the 2020-21 fiscal year, while a University of South Carolina Athletics press release said the department will conclude the 2021-21 academic year with a budget deficit of approximately $27 million.
“The primary reasons for the deficit were a reduction of seating capacity for home football games at Williams-Brice Stadium and associated costs of COVID testing for student-athletes, coaches, and staff during the academic year,” South Carolina’s release reads. “The Athletics Department underwent significant cost-cutting measures including furloughs, voluntary salary cuts of highest salaried employees, reduction in operating costs and hiring freezes.”
"I commend our coaches and staff for their ability to work under trying circumstances and continue to give our student-athletes a positive experience this past year," said South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, who hadn’t faced a deficit prior to the pandemic. "Our medical team and training staff did an outstanding job of keeping our student-athletes healthy and safe and meeting all of the COVID protocols as specified by the DHEC, CDC, the SEC and our University."
South Carolina is planning for full capacity at home football games this fall. The release noted that revenues should rise in 2021-22, but increasing expenses will likely keep revenues from rising to pre-pandemic years.
"We are working to get back to full strength with our budget for 2022-23," Tanner said. "We will still need to be conscientious with the budget, but I believe we will be able to give our student-athletes and coaches the means necessary to compete for SEC and national championships."
Florida’s numbers were released during the school’s board of trustees meeting last week.
“It’s something we hope we never have to do again. Glad it’s behind us. Looking forward to normality,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said of navigating the pandemic and its impact on events and fans.
Stricklin said that the department avoided one of the main ancillary impacts of the pandemic, noting that they stopped pension payments and eliminated bonuses but didn’t have any layoffs, furloughs or salary cutbacks.
The Florida athletic department cut down on operating costs, while adding $3.5 million in expenses on COVID-19 testing. They budgeted for $140.7 million in 2020-21, but generated $86.2 million in revenue. Reduced football ticket sales and fewer sponsorship dollars and booster contributions.
The SEC, which said its 14 schools averaged about $45 million in shortfalls, gave each conference member $23 million to help offset the losses.