UI athletic department expects to lose $100M in revenue

By CBJ News Staff
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The University of Iowa’s athletic department is anticipating lost revenue of at least $100 million and a university budget deficit of between $60-$75 million as a result of the Big Ten conference’s announcement last week it would postpone fall sports, including the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 2020 season.

“We recognize the conference’s decision will have a major financial impact on not only our athletic department but the many businesses that rely on Hawkeye events to support their livelihoods,” said UI Athletic Director Gary Barta in an open letter to fans published online Monday, adding his department is working hard to find solutions and that “these decisions will be very challenging.”

Iowa athletics brought in revenue of nearly $152 million in 2018-2019, according to NCAA figures, with $146.3 million in expenses, making the UI the fifth largest sports revenue generator in the Big Ten and 14th nationwide. Those totals do not include revenue to hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses reliant on annual football traffic – a figure Think Iowa City President Josh Schamberger pegged at “north of $120 million” for the football season alone.

“Since early March we have faced many uncertainties and challenges. This past week was difficult on many levels,” Mr. Barta said, citing not just the postponement of the football season, but last week’s derecho that wreaked destruction throughout the Corridor. “I know the Hawkeyes are a significant part of our lives, but the health and safety of our family and friends is of utmost importance. I also know Iowans are strong and come together in times of challenge. How we respond moving forward will be difficult, but also important.”

Mr. Barta’s letter came as his department reported four new positive COVID-19 tests out of a total of 335 tests conducted between Aug. 10-16. A total of 51 people among coaches, staff, and athletes have tested positive for the disease since testing began in late May when department activities resumed. A total of 1,225 negative test results have been received.

But it also comes as players and their parents openly question Big Ten decision-making. On Friday, ESPN reported parents of Iowa football players hand-delivered a letter to conference headquarters in Chicago, asking to meet with commissioner Kevin Warren. Parents are demanding to know why the Big Ten announced its schedule six days before becoming the first Power 5 conference to delay football until spring.

“We have said from the beginning, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our priority,” Mr. Barta said. “Our athletics department is fortunate to have the expertise and guidance of our medical team and partners at University of Iowa Health Care. Unfortunately, the conference determined there were still too many uncertainties to move forward with fall sports.”

Ticket holders for UI fall sports can get a full refund by contacting [email protected]. Season ticket priority and seat locations are guaranteed for next year, and those not requesting refunds can have it applied to the 2021 season.

Mr. Barta said his department’s next steps include continuing its commitment to student-athletes and their education, working with conference officials to address the health and safety concerns that shut down fall sports so that winter and spring sports can go forward and finalizing a plan “to guide our department through significant financial challenges associated with this pandemic.” CBJ