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CU Buffs AD Rick George expects some financial hit

Coronavirus pandemic to impact CU financially, but how much remains to be seen

BOULDER, CO - FEBRUARY 12, 2020: University of Colorado Athletic Director, Rick George, addresses the media after Head Football Coach, Mel Tucker, announces he is leaving. 
(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – FEBRUARY 12, 2020: University of Colorado Athletic Director, Rick George, addresses the media after Head Football Coach, Mel Tucker, announces he is leaving. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado athletic director Rick George expects a financial hit to the department because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the significance of that hit could depend on the fate of the football season.

On Wednesday, George conducted a conference call with media and he addressed the financial impact of the pandemic, which has shut down spring sports and, to this point, prevented the Buffaloes from holding spring football practice.

“Fortunately we don’t have a lot of spring revenue that comes in for our spring sports teams, so we don’t really have an impact there,” he said. “The fact that we completed our football and basketball seasons was really important because there’s a lot of revenue that comes through donations and ticket sales and our TV contracts. Most of those were already done and exercised.”

During the 2019 fiscal year, CU’s spring sports teams – men’s and women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, women’s tennis and co-ed track and field – generated a total of just over $2.17 million in revenue, but nearly $1.45 million of that came through direct institutional support.

The track team was the only CU spring sport to have ticket revenue ($8,481) and lacrosse was the only sport to have any parking or concessions revenue ($246).

“There will be a financial impact in this fiscal year, for sure, but it won’t be as big as you might think at this point,” George said. “Next year and how we budget for next year will be real important.”

CU and other schools will feel the impact of the NCAA recently announcing that its distribution to Division I schools will drop to $225 million – down from $600 million. The challenge for George and his team, however, will be in preparing for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Football ticket sales are always a big part of CU’s annual revenue. Last  season, the Buffs brought in $20,025,933 in football ticket sales.

Right now, however, there is uncertainty about the football season because of the pandemic. Will football be played at all? Will it be played without fans in the stands? If fans are allowed, how many will have been financially impacted to the point that they can’t afford tickets?

Financial troubles of fans and alumni could impact the amount of money CU brings in through donations, as well.

Those questions will make it difficult for CU to put together its athletic department budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

“You’ve got to look at a lot of different factors,” George said. “Discretionary spending with the market, what does that do for some of the fans that have to make those very difficult decisions on how they spend that money? We’ll have to look at that carefully and we’ll have to make some projections on what that looks like.”

George said CU’s financial team has discussed several different scenarios as they look to prepare their budget in the next month.

“I think we have to have scenarios in place on how we budget for this upcoming fiscal year,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely important for us knowing that in all likelihood our revenues will be down. It’s a totally different scenario if football starts later or we don’t play in front of fans. We’ll have to be smart about how we budget and what processes we put in place as we move into our next fiscal year.”

George mentioned other factors that could impact the budget include spring sports seniors electing to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility and the NCAA’s decisions on name, image and likeness, as it could lead to athletic departments hiring additional staff.

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