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IOWA CITY — After much speculation of how the pandemic would affect Iowa’s high-profile university athletic programs — with deficit projections prompting the University of Iowa to cut sports programs — final numbers for the fiscal 2021 budget reveal losses were steep but less than first feared.
Instead of the expected $60 to $75 million shortfall UI Athletics Director Gary Barta last August cited in eliminating men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis, UI Athletics ended the budget year June 30 with a $42.9 million deficit, according to a new Board of Regents report. That is on the low end of Barta’s revised deficit prediction from last October — one he made after the Big Ten resurrected a shortened fall football season last fall — of $40 to $60 million.
In the 2021 budget summaries made public this week, UI Athletics reported “sports income was non-existent due to the inability to have fans in the stadium and arena.” The majority of UI Athletics’ $60.7 million in revenue was multimedia and Big Ten Conference income, which far exceeded expectations by coming in $37.5 million over a $23.2 million budget
Instead of the forecast $10 million in conference revenue, UI Athletics took in $42.6 million. Instead of the expected $1.5 million in multimedia revenue, it brought in nearly $6 million, according to board documents.
UI Athletics spent $1.4 million more than it budgeted on football “due to participation in a limited schedule.” It spent $2.7 million more on administrative and general expenses, again, “due to conducting initially unanticipated sport seasons.”
But UI Athletics earlier this year changed course on also cutting women’s swimming and diving after female athletes filed a Title IX gender equity lawsuit. Besides keeping the program, UI Athletics this fall unveiled plans as part of the lawsuit settlement to launch a women’s wrestling team.
Despite its plummet in sports income, alumni and foundation support, and other income from previous years, UI’s conference revenue — although down about $10 million from the previous year — still was above the 2017 budget.
Iowa State University, like Iowa, survived the COVID — 19 afflicted 2020 athletics season better than expected — generating $23.6 million more than budgeted thanks to its allowance of a limited fan attendance.
Instead of no ticket revenue, ISU made $2.6 million on football, basketball, wrestling and other ticket sales. By bringing in $2.5 million more than expected in conference contributions and $13.5 million more than expected from donors, ISU halved its projected $35 million deficit to $17 million.
ISU Athletics spent less than its budget forecast on football and other sports, but about $10 million more than budgeted on salaries and benefits.
“Salary and benefit costs exceeded the budget due to the men’s basketball coaching change and contract buyouts,” according to regent documents.
The Cyclones in March fired head basketball coach Steve Prohm after a dismal season of just two wins and 22 losses overall — going 0-18 in the Big 12. It picked his replacement — TJ Otzelberger — days later.
University of Northern Iowa Athletics reported more revenue than budgeted and spent — putting it in the black for the year over its pared down $12.7 million budget. Instead of a deficit, UNI Athletics ended the year with revenues $3 million over expenses — thanks largely to $9.2 million in support from the main campus.
UNI is the only of Iowa’s public university athletics departments to regularly receive contributions from the main campus, as UI and ISU athletics usually are self-supported. UI Athletics this year, however, had to borrow $50 million from the also-strapped main campus to cover its deficit.
And UNI’s contribution to athletics was $4.8 million more than it budgeted.
“Federal support was used to help offset lost revenue from March 2020 to February 2021 due to the pandemic,” according to UNI’s report to the regents. “As the pandemic’s impact continues, departmental leadership continues to review the budget in order to maximize revenue-generation opportunities and limit expenses in an effort to work toward a sustainable balanced budget.”
Unlike the other two public campuses, UNI received less than it expected from its conference and marketing.
“Although reduced capacity was anticipated during budget development, the financial impact of schedule adjustments, seat distancing, and fan response was not fully known as variables changed throughout the year.”
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