UK Athletics cutting expenses after projected $35 million loss in revenue due to COVID-19

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Dec 14, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The University of Kentucky says they're facing a projected decline in net revenues of nearly $35 million in 2020-2021 because of COVID-19.

"The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have presented a historic budget challenge," University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart told members of the University Athletics Committee of the UK Board of Trustees Monday afternoon. "But challenges are what we teach and coach our student athletes to successfully work through — as individuals and as teams. That's what we are doing with this challenge that confronts our department in the face of a global pandemic."

Barnhart told board members the forecasted $35 million net revenue loss is primarily from the loss of ticket sales in football and basketball and a reduction in ticket-related contributions to the K Fund. Kroger Field and Rupp Arena were reduced to 20% and 15% seating capacity for football and basketball, respectively, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Barnhart said the loss of revenues will be offset by increases in the Southeastern Conference revenue sharing, ongoing efforts to increase philanthropic support, a transfer of surplus funds from previous years, and cutting expenses.

Like the rest of the campus, UK says the athletics department compensation was cut 5% at the start of the fiscal year through a temporary reduction in retirement benefits. Layoffs and additional salary reductions are not being considered at this time, Barnhart says, nor is UK Athletics asking for any assistance from UK's general fund operations.

"Our staff and team have worked around the clock for months to give our student athletes in all our sports an opportunity to compete and train this fall in as safe and healthy an environment as possible," Barnhart said.

UK Athletics already has cut nearly $10 million in expenses in areas such as recruiting and travel. These reductions offset necessary investments in COVID-19 testing and support for student athletes.

"This budget plan — constructed in the midst of some of the most challenging times we have ever faced as an institution underscores that commitment and that partnership," said UK President Eli Capilouto.

Capilouto noted that Barnhart, throughout his long tenure at UK, has been "balancing the department's budget and contributing to the success of the entire university."

"While this year will be the toughest budget year in generations for athletics, I am confident that Mitch and his team are putting together — and executing on — a plan that will give athletics, and our student athletes, the best chance for success," said Capilouto. "As always, they are putting our students and our university first."