Colorado State sports programs are not in jeopardy of elimination due to the coronavirus pandemic, athletic director Joe Parker said, but the Rams are bracing for a potential 20-percent cut to the department’s operations budget.
In a media conference call with reporters Wednesday, Parker discussed a variety of issues after the CSU Board of Governors approved the school’s overall budget for the 2020-21 school year — which cited the need for $17 million in funding cuts for the university amid a tuition freeze.
Parker said the exact financial impact on CSU athletics is unclear with NCAA and health authority decisions looming over this fall’s football season. Ticket sales are a major source of revenue for the department, and the Sept. 5 season opener vs. CU at Canvas Stadium is less than three months away.
“There is still uncertainty in our ability to generate revenues based on crowd sizes and what will be acceptable at the point in time where we are hosting games,” Parker said. “We’re planning for operational cuts as much as 20 percent in our operating budgets, and we may have to adjust as information becomes apparent to us once we get the year going.”
A dire economic future has led other schools across the country to eliminate individual sports programs — like at Akron, Appalachian State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, East Carolina, Furman and Old Dominion.
The Rams currently offer 16 varsity sports, however, which represents the minimum requirement to maintain D-I status with the NCAA. Parker said cutting sports programs “has never been a part of the discussion as we’ve planned for cost-containment.”
Might it be the coaches who feel the financial pinch?
“Right now, I don’t think (the board of governors) are contemplating furloughs,” Parker said. “I haven’t gotten complete information from the meeting and the results from the impact on athletics. I think there is also an interest in trying not to reduce any salaries for university faculty or staff.
“But I will say that whatever might be required, there has been a willingness from everyone on our staff, every coach that’s in our employment agreement, to do whatever is necessary.”
Voluntary CSU football workouts began Monday with 35 athletes returning to campus, all of whom stayed on the Front Range during the pandemic. Each received a COVID-19 intake test prior to release for outdoor team activities. Parker said he is “very optimistic” CSU sports will resume as scheduled in the fall with new health and safety guidelines in place.
“We’ve been working on a very staged timeline,” Parker said. “Things in Northern Colorado have been very positive and favorable, I think, relative to some other markets. … We’re encouraged by the first steps that we’ve taken.”
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