College Programs Around Country Bracing For COVID's Impact
Lost dollars from the NCAA Tournament's cancellation are "just the tip of the iceberg," as the "economic climate in college sports that existed pre-coronavirus, even just a month ago, was vastly different from the one that will emerge post-coronavirus," according to Mike Jensen of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The ramifications "will be endless." The facilities arms race that "consumed big-time college sports for more than two decades could slow to a crawl." Athletic department budgets "will be trimmed across divisions," and schools trying to stay open "might question the importance of having an athletics program at all." Lost conference tournament revenue also is a "major issue." Jensen: "Do the venues demand full payment?" One veteran administrator said, "I'm sure there are some outs on both sides." But Jensen writes longtime partners "might handle such issues differently, wishing to maintain the partnership." A longtime AD said of the potential economic impact, "Say you're in a fund-raising campaign right now. Very sensitive. Sponsorships come open. People might be looking at the world very differently now. Next year's marketing budgets might take a hit" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/27).
MID-MAJOR PERSPECTIVES: Duquesne AD Dave Harper said athletic departments are going to have to "reinvent who they are to fit into universities' plans and missions." First-year Robert Morris AD Chris King said, "It probably hits the mid-majors a little harder than the Power Fives because the Power Fives, a lot of times, will have a reserve. They can afford the cut back in staffing or certain operating expenses where it's much, much more difficult for us." He added, "Right now, we’re sweating it a little more, but I guarantee you if we get to July and nothing has gone back to normal, the Power Fives are really going to be sweating it" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/29).
POWER-FIVE PERSPECTIVES: Georgia AD Greg McGarity said that his school is "starting a list of 'different buckets' that could be affected by the coronavirus crisis." McGarity: "Depending on football, obviously, that's the big unknown now. We're planning as if a football season is going to happen. If that doesn't happen, that's a whole another environment" (ATHENS BANNER-HERALD, 3/29). The NCAA last Thursday announced it was reducing its direct distribution to D-I conferences and schools this year by about $375M, but Utah State AD John Hartwell said that was "something we knew was coming for the last couple of weeks." Hartwell: "When the NCAA Tournament was canceled, we knew it was coming to some extent, so it was not totally out of left field. The number for Utah State will be about $600,000 of budgeted revenue that will not be coming our way for fiscal 2020." In Salt Lake City, Josh Newman wrote some "better news is that the Pac-12 has a rainy-day reserve fund for an emergency situation, such as a global pandemic," which it "could dip into to help athletic departments" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/28). Nebraska AD Bill Moos said there is an "opportunity here to implement things you ordinarily wouldn't implement." He said, "You're going to start seeing multi-million dollar reductions in revenue streams, so dream up some new ones" (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 3/28).
COST OF DOING BUSINESS: In Portland, John Canzano noted the Pac-12 is in the midst of an 11-year lease for "two floors and 113,000 square feet of prime office space" in downtown S.F. The deal cost the conference $6.9M in rent last year and another $11.7M in "deferred rent." Canzano wrote, "If I'm a member of the Pac-12's CEO Group -- the presidents and chancellors of the 12 universities -- I have one question: Why are we still there?" None of the Pac-12 member institutions are located in downtown S.F., and staff at the Pac-12 offices have to be "paid more because of the high cost of living." Additionally, the "theoretical advantages of being located within blocks of some high-profile tech companies hasn't manifested itself in a single lucrative partnership." Canzano: "That downtown San Francisco location is a vanity play for a conference that can't afford one." As such, the Pac-12 should "get out of that lease" and "relocate the headquarters and the Pac-12 Networks studios somewhere less expensive" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/28).