EWU looking at $2.1 million in athletic budget cuts
Last updated 5/13/2020 at 11:02am
Editor's note: This story has been updated on May 13 at 11:01 a.m. to add "state appropriations" to Athletics Director Lynn Hickey's statement on the estimated loss of revenue sources.
CHENEY – Eastern Washington University’s Athletics Department is eyeing an estimated $2.1 million loss in revenue, Athletics Director Lynn Hickey said during the weekly “Lunch & Learn” show on the department’s Facebook page.
Hickey told host Larry Weir on Tuesday, May 12, that the estimated loss comes from an anticipated reduction in state appropriations and student fees, although there will be revenue losses as well as the university looks at the possibility of changes to fan attendance at sporting events as a result of measures to deal with controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
Hickey said the reductions will mean some cuts. The department doesn’t have a lot of superfluous expenses from which to make cuts, she added, so reductions will be to the “meat” of each sports budgets.
“We’re looking at 20-30 percent loss to each sport,” Hickey said.
Hickey’s comments came a day after the Big Sky Conference Presidents’ Council voted to allow members to make their own decisions on the resumption of practice and competition in accordance with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) polices. That decision comes on the heels of comments by NCAA President Mark Emmert, who said over the weekend he didn’t believe schools should be playing sports, including football, if their campuses were not open to students this fall as a result of pandemic measures.
“You’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students,” he said during an NCAA-streamed interview. "So, if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”
Eastern Washington officials announced last week they planned to continue the online course offerings this fall, except labs which will be allowed in small groups. Officials also said instructors should design their courses so face-to-face instruction can resume should conditions surrounding the coronarvirus improve.
Big Sky Conference Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said the decision to allow individual institutions to make their own decisions regarding resuming athletics incorporates the fact the conference is spread over eight states, each with their own conditions established for reopening. Hickey added on Tuesday she didn’t think it was the NCAA’s decision to make regarding who gets to play, and that they were allowing that decision to fall to conferences — which resulted in the Big Sky’s announcement on Monday.
“The decision on where you’re going to play, when you’re going to play is going to largely be determined by the governor of your state,” Hickey added.
Hickey said with states like Montana and Idaho relaxing virus protection measures already, their member institutions were already making plans to resume practices. She said student-athletes need at least four weeks prior to the resumption of practice in which to return get acclimated.
With institutions resuming athletics on their own schedules, competition this year will likely look a lot different.
“It’s not going to be a fair landscape,” she said. “There’s not going to be a lot of equity this year. But we’ve got to move forward as best we can.”
Hickey said it will likely be July before the university knows how it will handle fall sports. She said the safety of student-athletes is paramount in the university's approach, and that everything else is up for consideration, including starting the season without the presence of fans.
“I don’t know how financially we would survive that,” she said, adding that a goal of raising $5 million has been set to assist the Eagle Athletic Foundation with its mission of supporting athletics through scholarships.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.