When the Big Ten decided to cancel fall sports this week, it did so knowing what it would do to school’s athletics budgets.
Monday, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, who has spoken about COVID-19 finances since the coronavirus put America in quarantine in March, sent an email to football season-ticket holders and for the first time put numbers on what the UI athletics program stands to lose.
Iowa athletics is anticipating lost revenue of approximately $100 million this year. With Big Ten football pushed to the possibility of a spring schedule, Barta said it will lead to a budget deficit within the department of between $60-75 million.
“We have said from the beginning, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our priority,” Barta wrote. “Our athletics department is fortunate to have the expertise and guidance of our medical team and partners at University of Iowa Health Care. Unfortunately, the conference determined there were still too many uncertainties to move forward with fall sports.”
In the letter, Barta said the UI is “working hard to find solutions.”
“These decisions will be very challenging," he said.
Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted last Tuesday to postpone all fall sports to the spring because of medical concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten hasn’t said much of anything beyond the announcement, leaving players and parents in the dark. Parents of players at several schools, including Iowa, have made their concerns known to the league. There has yet to be a response from the league.
A February 2020 story by The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller shows Iowa athletics’ $152 million revenue total in 2019 was nearly $15 million over the previous year — an 11 percent increase. Its $16 million jump in spending to $146.3 million — also the largest total since at least 2013 — was a more than 12 percent bump, according to reports the schools are required to submit to the NCAA.
Hawkeye athletics last year received more contributions — such as from individuals and corporations — reporting $35.4 million, up from $27.2 million.
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In April, Barta discussed finances on a Zoom conference call with media. There has been hiring and spending freezes. Reserve funds kept budget obligations satisfied through June 30. At the time, Barta wouldn’t speculate what would happen after June 30.
He said all of the 250 athletics department employees have talked about “shared sacrifices.”
“We’ll be redoing the operating budget. We’ll be redoing everything we do,” Barta said. “I expect there will be reductions ... We’re modeling. We’re preparing.”
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