The Gophers athletic department has already lost $4 million in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic with estimates of losses ultimately reaching as high as $75 million. Now it has to present its plan to navigate those potentially extreme losses to the Board of Regents.
The board released docket materials for a presentation Friday showing how the athletic department went from forecasting a $1 million revenue surplus in February after successful fundraising efforts and a fruitful football season to losing $4 million by April from canceled facilities rentals and a sharp drop in NCAA distributions, down to $225 million across Division I schools from a projected $600 million.
While the department is saving some money during this time of canceled sports from travel, recruiting and event hosting, the department still will need to work toward a balanced $123 million budget this year. Hiring and spending freezes, reduction in summer school expenses as well as voluntary salary reductions for head coaches and senior staff are all occurring.
The athletic department has not released pay cut specifics, but football coach P.J. Fleck, men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino and women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen all took one-week pay cuts. Per contracts, Fleck was set to earn $4.6 million this year, making his weekly salary about $88,462. Pitino makes $2.4 million annually, putting him about $46,154 per week. And Whalen is making $496,500, putting her at $9,548 per week.
Athletic director Mark Coyle, who will present these strategies to the board, and others in the athletic department also have taken pay cuts. Fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, could see even more significant impacts.
At a board meeting April 7, Brian Burnett, the university’s chief financial officer, presented three potential scenarios for revenue losses. If sports go on as planned, he estimated the athletic department would lose $10 million through Dec. 31 — the first six months of fiscal 2021. If sports go on without fans or with a truncated season, that total rises to $30 million for that same period. And if university teams can’t play the rest of 2020, it could be a $75 million revenue loss.
In addition to continued salary reductions and a hiring freeze, the athletic department is planning a reduction in the internship and graduate assistant program, which could mean smaller coaching staffs. It also is eliminating merit increases and not replacing three senior staff members who left their jobs.
The athletic department is targeting a double-digit percent reduction in its operating budget for fiscal year 2021, which translates to at least $12.3 million in cost savings. It plans to do that through exploring regional nonconference game scheduling, postponing specialty events and evaluating travel budgets — flying commercial instead of charter, reducing noncompetition travel, reducing the number of support staff who travel and other overhead expenses.