Football will be played in the Big Ten this fall, but the University of Iowa’s decision to discontinue four sports programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year remains final, Athletic Director Gary Barta said in a video conference Thursday.
Barta and UI President Bruce Harreld announced in an open letter Aug. 21 that the Hawkeye men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s tennis and gymnastics programs were being cut. The letter cited the Big Ten’s Aug. 11 decision to postpone all fall sports in the conference, including football, as a reason for the cuts.
Following the Big Ten’s announcement, Barta said the athletic department was anticipating a $100 million revenue loss and a $75 million deficit.
With the return of football this fall, even without fans in the stands, Big Ten schools will see a boost in revenue compared to what they were previously expecting. Still, Barta was clear that the decision to cut these four sports remains final.
“I spoke with our staff [Wednesday],” Barta said Thursday. “The position eliminations, the furloughs, the salary reductions, including the four sports no longer continuing at Iowa, are all still in place. Those decisions won’t change, because the financial crisis is certainly still in play. And the [losses] are still going to be very significant.
“We are going to have more revenue at the end because having these games televised will bring more revenue. But it will be a much reduced amount, because we’re not playing a full schedule. With no fans, we don’t have ticket revenue. We don’t have the donations that go with the seats. And we’re going to have much reduced revenue in all other categories.”
Barta did not provide a specific amount that will be regained now that a football season is in place. The conference is set to compete in an eight-game regular season, along with an additional game that will take place the same week of the Big Ten Championship Game.
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The Iowa athletic department confirmed Sept. 8 that it will cut or leave vacant 40 positions because of financial shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saves it $2.558 million in salary and fringe benefits.
A budget report released Tuesday, which is on the agenda for a Sept. 23 state Board of Regents meeting, said UI Athletics was projecting a $74.8 million deficit and a $96.9 million drop in revenue this fiscal year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These figures did not account for any potential football revenue this fiscal year.
Paying for daily antigen testing is now an additional expense for the department, although an exact figure is still being finalized. Barta said all 14 Big Ten schools will collectively share the cost of rapid testing.
Barta had previously announced that the department was close to finalizing a $75 million loan. UI Athletics is still looking for outside assistance to cover its financial losses, Barta said, but the amount of the loan will now be reduced.
“Maybe our deficit goes from $75 million to $60 million or $55 million,” Barta said. “The deficit that we will take on this year is going to be — I hate to use the word catastrophic — but that’s really what it is. I say catastrophic because it led to people losing their jobs. It led to people taking paycuts. It led to student athletes in four sports not having an opportunity [at Iowa] after this year.
“It will be better, but far from relief.”