Apr 3, 2020 - Sports

How college athletic directors view the coronavirus crisis

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte. Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

Athletic departments are reeling from the loss of conference tournaments and March Madness revenues and could face a financial crisis in the coming months, especially if the football season is canceled.

Driving the news: More than 100 ADs at FBS universities were surveyed on their concerns, plans and goals in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • 89% listed academic progress among their top concerns in regard to their student-athletes over the next three months, followed by mental health (74%), lack of resources while off campus (53%) and sport performance (48%).
  • 75% listed donations among the most at-risk revenue streams, followed by ticket sales (74%), conference distributions (56%), NCAA distributions (51%), sponsorships (31%) and student fees (28%).
  • 67% listed a decrease in enrollment among the most likely outcomes of this crisis, followed by a slow down of the arms race as a result of greater overall frugality (53%) and a decrease in live fan interest for sporting events (53%).
  • 63% forecast a worst-case scenario in which their revenues drop by at least 20% during the 2020-21 school year.
  • 41% of Power Five ADs said they have a financial reserve in place that can be used for this type of crisis, compared to 26% of Group of Five ADs.
  • 40% approve or strongly approve the idea that high-earners should voluntarily offer to make a personal financial sacrifice; 15% disapprove or strongly disapprove.

What to watch: Iowa State just announced that nearly everyone in the athletic department will take a one-year, 10% pay cut, and that coaches will suspend all bonuses and incentives for one year. Expect more schools to follow.

  • "I've talked to many of my peers, and they want to do what we just did," said Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard.
  • "If this catches fire, you wouldn't want to be the coach who doesn't do something" Ohio University professor David Ridpath told USA Today.

Go deeper: Inside the world of college sports financing

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