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The Covid-19 Crisis Is Having A Major Impact On College Sports Budgets

Finances are about to get a lot more interesting

Like everyone else, college sports will have to make adjustments to the environment brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected just about everything and the ACC is not immune.

However, for this year, the conference came very close to reaching its financial goals, with the conference distributing 98 percent of planned distributions.

That happened primarily because ESPN paid in full and expenses were cut due to spring sports being entirely canceled.

So at least there shouldn’t be mass panic based on that income. Obviously schools raise lots of money from alums and donations and so forth and that’s likely to take a hit and conference schools, notably Louisville, are tightening their belts.

Still, getting close to your full expected income is pretty good even if you have to factor in the loss of spring sports.

The ACC seems to be in relatively good shape compared to the Big Ten, which expects a $ 1.7 billion loss and some schools are panicking a bit. At Minnesota, AD Mark Coyle says “everything is on the table.” Michigan State AD Bill Beekman says no football would be “an existential moment” for college sports.

Wisconsin meanwhile says it’s been careful about money and is ready for whatever comes.

What’s really going to be fascinating?

Notre Dame.

The Irish have been able to stay independent in football due to their massive national following and a fat deal with NBC.

What happens if there’s no football? Could that push the Irish to fully join the ACC? It’d take a big paycut to do that but we live in strange times. It’s hard to know what to expect.

One final note here.

The Power-5 schools are dealing with enormous budgets and major shortfalls in their revenues.

During the 2008 financial crisis, our local schools saw their budgets sharply slashed and asked parents to help out by sponsoring certain items for their school.

One of them was a jump rope rack which one could sponsor for...$400.00 dollars.

For a jump rope rack.

Just to repeat that - $400.00 for a jump rope rack. Well on the plus side, it had wheels, but come on. It’s a jump rope rack.

It was somewhat similar to this but a bit heavier duty.

There was no point in trying to tell anyone anything because no one would have listened but if it had been us, we might have tried a different approach.

When Bill Foster was at Duke he did a number of very smart things. At one point, he asked fans to come by and help paint the seats in Cameron. We don’t know if the budget was an issue but even if it wasn’t, it was smart because people who helped were invested and, incidentally, the university saved thousands of hours of labor (and paying for it).

The point?

Every Power-5 school, and a lot that aren’t Power-5, are used to spending money somewhat freely.

The most important person in any athletic department now is going to be whoever works in finance and goes around looking at acquisitions and seeking out alternatives. We’re pretty sure that Minnesota (and everyone else) has the equivalent of $400 dollar jump rope racks - probably much more expensive - and any school could start cutting costs by looking at basic things and seeking out cheaper alternatives. We can guarantee you there’s a lot of fat in those budgets.