MORGANTOWN – Since there has been no suggestion that we are facing a “Doomsday Disease” in the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems logical to assume that we will eventually see a return of college sports sometime in the future.
The first question that comes to mind, of course, is when, but perhaps a far more pressing question is what kind of financial shape will the NCAA brotherhood be in financially when it returns. The questions being raised across the country come in light of schools and conferences announcing heavy financial repercussions already being felt by athletic departments as events such as the NCAA Basketball Championships, which has become a printing press of money for the organization, have been canceled.
With that, it is fair to ask as the luster is coming off what has become a Golden Age of collegiate sports whether or not coaches should give back a portion of their salaries with games on hold.
Athletic directors across the land, including WVU’s Shane Lyons, admit discussions have been held concerning all financial issues and that one is something that is being discussed internally within each university and on the conference and NCAA level.
“We’re trying to remain whole as we move forward,” Lyons said, when just that question was brought up during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. “Time will tell what that’s going to look like with different revenue streams and ticket sales and whether we’re going to play football next year or when we’re going to play football. That’s all thrown into the pot we’re going to have to look at. No decision at this point has been made about that topic.”
Other groups have made moves.
Last week, the NCAA announced that its top executives would take a 20 percent cut in pay and their vice-presidents would take 10 percent pay cut.
Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman announced he was voluntarily taking a 10 percent pay cut and Iowa State’s veteran athletic director Jamie Pollard announced in a letter to his fans that sweeping changes were being made proactively ahead of having to be made out of desperation.
This should be taken as important at WVU for Iowa State is a school quite similar to the Mountaineers, also a member of the Big 12 with fans who have a strong affection for the school and its athletic program. The Big 12 is a conference made up of haves and have nots and that certainly can be interpreted as a weakness.
Texas and Oklahoma are awash in money, Baylor and TCU are private institutions and Kansas, of course, is a national basketball power that dwarfs its long suffering football program.
This is what Pollard wrote to his fans:
We are implementing these initiatives:
A one-year, temporary pay reduction for athletics department coaches and certain staff. This comprehensive plan will reduce total payroll by more than $3M.
A one-year, temporary suspension of all bonuses/incentives for all coaches. This decision will save the department $1M.
Delaying (from January 2021 to January 2022) a previously announced increase in Cyclone Club annual giving levels. The delay will save donors approximately $2.5M for required seating donations.
A freeze on season / individual game ticket prices for all sports.
An extension to the deadline for this year’s Cyclone Club donations and football season ticket renewals to May 29, 2020.
Providing multiple payment options for season tickets and donations. Those required payments can be made monthly, quarterly or semi-annually.
These actions will help us address the $5M shortfall that we face with the cancellation of the NCAA and Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournaments. We can now turn our attention to solving many other issues in the coming months. It was also important to us to provide our loyal ticket holders and donors some relief in regards to ticket prices and donations.
Although we could have passed on implementing these difficult decisions today and simply hoped for things to improve, we felt it was wise to act now.
Pollard even went further.
“Some of our coaches have said, ‘Let me do more,’” Pollard said. “I just said, let’s keep some of the powder dry because we don’t know what else is around the corner for us.”
Understand, the situation is a total unknown except for the fact that these institutions are looking at upcoming losses from the loss of the conference basketball championships and the NCAAs and the uncertainty surrounding what football will look like next year, if there is football.
Layoffs are possible within the departments and, to be honest, an extended suspension in competition could mean the end of several sports who can’t carry their weight financially.
Lyons projected that already they are looking at $2 to $2.5 million not coming in this year.
“We’re looking at how that will impact our department,” Lyons said. “There will be some savings with no spring sports. They won’t be competing, won’t be traveling.”
Recruiting costs right now are cut back, too, so there should be savings.
The school is also looking at increased costs next spring as senior athletes have been granted an extra year of eligibility. Many will not use it, but Lyons projected a cost in scholarships of about a half a million dollars.
“Some of the sport administrators are in discussions with student-athletes (in the spring sports) that could be returning. It’s a matter of sitting down with the student-athletes and figuring it out,” Lyons said. “We have to start those conversations with them now. I do have some of those going on with the sport administrators and the coaches to figure out what the student-athletes want to do, but we are just at the front end of that process.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel