Oregon State Director of Athletics Scott Barnes is facing a fluid situation when it comes to the financial impact on the school’s athletic department.
Barnes said OSU has plans in place to deal with any one of a variety of scenarios that could appear as the football season arrives this fall.
“Football obviously drives 75 to 80% of our revenue so it’s really important to keep an eye on that and understand the implications of the various scenarios,” Barnes said Thursday. “So it continues to be fluid.”
In May, the university announced the need to make $124 million in cuts beginning July 1. The athletic department is responsible for about $10 million.
That number is flexible due to the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It could be that number or it could be a bit less or a bit more depending on how many games we play, when we play, what our attendance will ultimately look like as it relates to allowable fans in the stands,” Barnes said. “Obviously we’ll follow our state health authorities and the governor’s office around what we can specifically do and we’ll take measures to do that. All of those things will greatly inform what our revenue deficit is.
“Certainly our priority is the safety of our student-athletes and our fans and alumni and that will help inform the number of fans we can have in the stands. In addition to that, will we play a whole season? Will we play a season that’s 12 games but moved back or will we play a condensed season? All of those options are still on the table.”
Cuts already include the football team’s hotel stay the night before home games and could hit additional travel for other sports with expensive tournaments or trips scheduled.
Twenty-three jobs have been eliminated through layoffs, non-renewals and frozen positions. Barnes said he could not comment on the specifics of those positions.
“The revenue shortfall mitigation strategies are in play and those include operation budget cuts, non-renewals and layoffs unfortunately and salary reductions. So across every part of our operation, every unit, this will be felt in a fairly dramatic way and already has been felt,” Barnes said. “At some point there’s only so much that you can do. And so right now we’re focused on wrapping up 2020 and getting through 2021 depending on the scenarios. And as you can imagine we’re in constant communication with our university leadership on all of that.”
Other schools have already been forced to trim sports. University of Connecticut recently announced that it will eliminate men’s tennis, swimming and diving, cross-country and women’s rowing.
Barnes remains adamant that the Beavers are not looking at that option.
“It’s not being seriously considered,” Barnes said. “It’s not in our current scenario plan.”
Meanwhile, offseason workouts have begun at OSU for the football team and some team members from other sports.
All athletes are tested upon arrival at the school and there have been no positive test results through the first week of workouts.
“Our facilities and sports performance staff, which includes trainers and strength coaches and our medical team, have done an excellent job of putting together the appropriate plan to enhance every safety measure available,” Barnes said.
“It’s going very, very well. In fact, we continue to have daily and almost hourly conversations with our staff who are running that. We just had a coaches meeting (Wednesday) and they affirmed that things were going very well from their perspective and the student-athletes’ perspective. So all good so far.”
The Beavers are not asking the athletes to sign a waiver regarding COVID-19. Barnes said the education provided by their medical staff to the athletes and their parents via Zoom meetings has been sufficient.
“That was our decision based on that, yes,” he said.
Barnes said he has not heard any concerns about playing or participating in a game from athletes or coaches at this point.
Many players have been involved in or supportive of recent protests against racial injustice and Barnes said he has had meaningful conversations with OSU’s Black student-athletes on those issues.
What might happen prior to the start of a game as far as the possibility of players kneeling or using some other form of expression has not yet been discussed.
“We have not talked specifically about game day football and what that would look like,” Barnes said. “But I do want to say that we’re extremely proud of the thoughtful actionable items that they’ve come up with as a way to enhance education and awareness around racial injustice and the issues of the day.”
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