Boise State University this week announced furloughs for all staff and full-time faculty. The university says cancelled events and student refunds have cost nearly $10 million in lost revenue. Employees will take between four and 10 work days without pay, depending on their salary.
Athletic coaches and staff are not exempt from furlough, including head football coach Bryan Harsin, who is the highest-paid state employee. For just football, furloughs will save the school around $175,000, based on public salary information provided to the State Board of Education.
Across college athletics, uncertainty around the fall football season could cost schools even more.
“If there is no college football this fall, there’s very little likelihood there will be other sports because 85% of the revenue derived in college athletics comes from the sport of football,” Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson said during an interview on the conference broadcast network Monday.
Football at Boise State operates at about $4.5 million in profit, and drives additional department revenue like donations. The sport directly generated about half the total athletics budget of more than $50 million for the budget year ending June 30, 2019. Those profits subsidize costs to field nearly every other team wearing blue and orange. Only football and men's basketball are profitable according to budget documents prepared for the State Board of Education.
Thompson said the threat of reduced football revenue has conference athletic directors talking about cost-saving measures like reducing the number of competitions or participants in non-football sports.
“Ways to reduce the costs of running and promoting those sports versus the inevitable challenge of ‘Do we have to cut a sport,’" Thompson said. "Nobody wants to cut any sports.”
It’s still too soon to predict anything, and that is a huge part of the problem. Teams need four-to-six weeks at a minimum to practice and prepare for the season. If part or all of the football season at Boise State is compromised, an athletics department official said nothing would be off the table.
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