An online post by Athletic Director Joel Nielsen today gave hints about possible budget cuts and schedule changes ahead for Kent State and the MAC.
“As athletic departments plan and prepare for the road ahead, many in our industry have said, ‘College sports as we know it will never be the same.’
“While I tend to agree, it doesn’t mean that college sports won’t still be able to provide the opportunities and entertainment it’s been providing for over a century.
“Keeping that in mind, athletic departments will face difficult decisions in figuring out how to operate with less money. Staff sizing, travel restrictions, schedule modifications, and other budget reductions are logical options.
“Those decisions even become more difficult if the pandemic affects our fall sports. There is also uncertainty as to when the economy will be ‘reopened’ and how quickly it will rebound. That will affect fundraising, corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc.
“At the direction of the MAC President’s Council, and under the leadership of Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, the conference has been working on modifications to schedules, championships and other items.
“The recommendations will be reviewed and discussed over the next couple of weeks, and then shared with our students, staff and supporters.”
The University of Arizona, a far richer school than Kent State, is projecting a $7.5 million shortfall in athletic revenue. It is freezing all athletic spending, hiring and raises. Cuts in salaries, programs and scholarships are possible. (The measure were announced in a memo that was leaked to USA Today.)
Cincinnati announced Wednesday it was eliminating men’s soccer as a cost-cutting measure.
Earlier Wisconsin said that even though the NCAA had granted current seniors in spring sports an extra year of eligibility, it wouldn’t be able to afford scholarships for them.
Tough times ahead — for sports and the rest of us.
In the national news
I just starting subscribing to a site called CollegeAD.com. Here’s a link to some of today’s news, including a item on how the Group of Five is asking the NCAA for permission to cut back on sports and scholarships. Its worth a look (and following, if you’re interested in this kind of them.)
Up in the air
There are so many things unclear about what’s ahead for sports at Kent State and elsewhere. It certainly will be a long time before we get to any kind of new normal. The state will start to “reopen” sometime this summer. But it’s very likely it will be gradual, with fits and starts.
- Almost all sports have summer workouts. For example, all women’s basketball players, including incoming freshmen, usually have been on campus when summer school starts. The NCAA allows basketball teams to train and practice a total of 10 hours a week.
All Kent State summer classes are online. The university has announced there will be no campus activities until at least July 4. Does that mean summer workouts are dead? (I’d guess yes. Maybe something will happen in August if the “reopening” goes smoothly.)
- I’ve seen all sorts of speculation on the football season. It’s hard to imagine public health officials approving of 100,000 fans together in a Power 5 stadium (or 20,000 in a MAC stadium) in the first week of September. That’s especially true if there’s no proven treatment by then. (There almost certainly won’t be a vaccine until 2021.)
Could teams play in an empty stadium? Will practice be able to start on time in August? Would it be safe for 150 players, coaches and staff to be in the same place? How do you practice “social distancing” in an athletic practice?
I’ve seen stories speculating that the Big Ten might cut the football season to only conference games to save on travel. I’ve seen stories wondering whether football might be postponed to spring.
(I’m pretty sure that as football goes, so will other fall sports like soccer, field hockey and volleyball.)
- Some universities have begun discussion on whether campuses should remain closed and online classes might continue for the fall semester. If so, what happens to winter sports, all of which start official practice in October? Teams could be on campus — if the state and university deem it safe — to practice and take classes online.
But would universities allow that? Even if it were safe, could sports go on when on-campus group academic activities like musical and theater groups and science labs are suspended? Some classes simply can’t be taught remotely any more than a team can practice online.
I’m sure discussions on all these points and more are going on at Kent State and every other university in the country.