Ohio State Projects $107 Million Deficit for Athletic Department in 2020-21, But Won't Cut Any of Its 36 Sports

By Dan Hope on September 23, 2020 at 10:30 am
Empty Ohio Stadium

Ohio State won't be cutting any of its 36 sports, but it will be forced to cut its budget in other areas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ohio State athletic department is projecting a $107 million deficit for the 2020-21 academic year due to losses in revenue – including ticket sales, which accounted for $64 million in revenue last year – and will be eliminating 25 full-time athletics positions while also implementing furloughs and pay cuts in order to account for those losses.

Per a release from Ohio State on Wednesday, 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; 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; and 47 contracted staff members will be asked to take a voluntary, 5 percent salary reduction between Oct. 1 and June 30, 2021. 

Ohio State expects those layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts to result in $7 million in savings. Gene Smith said during a conference call Wednesday that Ryan Day and Chris Holtmann will be among the contracted employees taking 5 percent pay cuts. (Smith initially said those pay cuts only affect their base salaries, but an Ohio State spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch that Day's pay cut will also include supplemental compensation, meaning his pay cut will amount to $236,775 in total savings.)

Other 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 $3.0 million in facility operations.

Ohio State had already made budget cuts prior to the 2021 fiscal year – including 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 – that accounted for $5.6 million in savings.

The current budget for FY21 does not include media rights revenue, which is still to be determined by the Big Ten and its television partners.

Ohio State will continue to have a $180 million athletics budget that includes $25 million in athlete scholarships, $3.6 million for academic support, $3 million for meals and nutrition and $1.8 million for sports medicine and sports psychology services.

Not including television revenue, Ohio State is currently projecting $73 million in revenue for 2020-21, including $28.6 million in development, $13.4 million in NCAA and Big Ten basketball tournament and bowl game distribution, $5.8 million from its IMG/Learfield partnership, $4.6 million in endowment and investment income, $4.6 million from the Ohio State University Golf Course, $2 million in trademark and licensing, $1.7 million in camps and clinics and $1.1 million from a limited home men’s basketball season.

Ohio State's release states that “COVID-19 has posed significant budgetary challenges for the university” and that “no stream of revenue has remained unaffected.”

“Our student-athletes are our primary responsibility,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “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.

“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. We will implement a long term deficit recovery plan but will continue to focus on serving our student-athletes at the highest level.”

By comparison, Ohio State had more than $210 million in total athletic department revenues in the 2019 fiscal year – the last year for which Ohio State's NCAA financial report is available, as the 2020 report has not been filed yet – which included over $45 million in media rights. OSU's athletics-related budget for the 2019 fiscal year was over $220 million.

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