The Ohio State University Department of Athletics announced the details of its fiscal year 2021 budget Sept. 23, which includes department-wide budget cuts, furloughs and works to mitigate a projected $107 million deficit from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio State’s 36-sport program will remain intact and student-athletes will continue to have a fully funded grant-in-aid program, support services and resources in the $180 million budget, according to a news release.
“Our student-athletes are our primary responsibility,” Director of Athletics Gene Smith said in the release. “They have and will continue to come first. We have put together a responsible and conservative budget for this fiscal year, which assumes full support for our student-athletes. In the midst of this devastating pandemic, we remain committed to providing a safe and excellent academic and athletic experience for all of our student-athletes.”
COVID-19 has posed significant budgetary challenges for the university with no stream of revenue unaffected, the release said. The university has engaged in “rigorous and responsible fiscal planning in response, including a hiring pause, travel freeze and operational efficiencies.”
Virtually every employee in the department will be affected by staff reductions, the release said, listing:
• A permanent reduction in force will eliminate 25 full-time athletics positions
• 213 staff members are assigned to a 10-day intermittent furlough, to be completed between Oct. 6 and June 30, 2021
• 84 staff members will go on a 60-day, continuous furlough or redeployment from Oct. 9 through Dec. 31
• 48 members of the athletic training staff and strength and conditioning staff will have a 5-day intermittent furlough, to be completed between Oct. 6 and June 30, 2021;
• 47 contracted staff members will be asked to take a voluntary, 5% salary reduction between Oct. 1 and June 30, 2021
• The four staff members in the athletics department’s sports psychology and wellness services team will not be furloughed
While work on the budget is ongoing, major expense reductions include: $9.6 million in savings through a short-term restructure on debt; $6.1 million in cuts from sports’ operating budgets; $4 million on administration/support unit operating budgets; $3.4 million in football game day expenses; $3 million in non-conference game guarantees and $3 million in facility operations.
The budget includes $25 million for scholarships, $3.6 million for student-athlete academic support, $3 million for meals, refueling stations and nutrition, and $1.8 million for sports medicine and sports psychology services.
Furloughs, salary cuts and reductions in force will save an additional $7 million.
Budget cuts were made prior to the start of fiscal year 2021, which realized $5.6 million in savings. Savings resulted from implementation of a hiring freeze, not filling vacant positions, no merit increases, elimination of travel, a pause on some planned facility projects and operating budget spending restrictions, the release said.
The budget excludes media rights revenue that is still to be determined by the Big Ten Conference and its television partners.
The athletics department is one of approximately 20 nationwide that has been 100% self-sustaining and receives no university funds, tax dollars or student fees, the release said. The pandemic has impacted ticket sales – which accounts for $64 million in revenue – concessions, parking, marketing and media rights, licensing, royalties, Big Ten and NCAA distributions, endowment income, donations and rental activities.
Revenue assumptions, totaling approximately $73 million in the budget, are conservative and subject to change. Major revenue items include: $28.6 million, development; $13.4 million, NCAA and Big Ten basketball tournaments, and bowl game distribution; $5.8 million, IMG/Learfield partnership; $4.6 million, endowment and investment income; $4.6 million, Ohio State University Golf Course; $2 million, trademark and licensing; $1.7 million, camps and clinics; and $1.1 million, limited home men’s basketball season.
“Like our colleagues in the Big Ten, and across the country, intercollegiate athletics at Ohio State will have to significantly adjust as the pandemic will have a long-term impact,” Smith said in the release. “We will implement a long-term deficit recovery plan but will continue to focus on serving our student-athletes at the highest level.”