SIU athletic department adjusts budget amid fall revenue losses

By Brooke Buerck, Janae Mosby

While the SIU athletic department is taking a hard look at finances this year, their heavy reliance on government and university funding continues to prove a reliable source of income despite revenue losses from no sports teams competing in the fall. 

Compared to FBS and Power Five conference schools, SIU will not lose as much of the revenue from TV contracts and ticket sales as these larger athletic programs, but will still see the impacts as they manage expenses this year.

“When you can’t have fans and you can’t play games, revenue is going to take a hit. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone,” ESPN college sports commentator Jay Bilas said. 

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With the Missouri Valley Football Conference having announced on Aug. 14 the postponement of football seasons until spring, and the MVC announcing indefinite season suspensions for fall sports like volleyball, cross country and soccer as well, this has left the department with fewer opportunities to raise funds. 

One example of this is the lack of guarantee games that SIU’s football program would have played this fall, which are away games played against FBS Division I teams that offer large payouts. 

The Salukis were initially scheduled to play University of Wisconsin this fall for a guarantee of $500,000, but have since rescheduled that game to Sept. 4, 2027 for a larger guarantee of $625,000.

“In some ways we are saving money by not operating events. In other ways we are losing money; we lost a very large guarantee game from Wisconsin,” SIU athletic director Liz Jarnigan said.

SIU had hoped to replace the Wisconsin game on their schedule for a game against University of Kansas, but the Salukis will no longer play the Jayhawks this fall nor in the spring. 

“We will not have any [money games] in football because the money games are non conference games, and we will only be playing our conference schedule in the spring,” Jarnigan said.

Another lost source of income due to the football season cancellation is from ticket sales, which in 2018 accounted for $1.09 million of the total revenue for that year, about 5%, according to the Knight Commission. 

The larger percentages of SIU’s income come from student fees and school funds — a USA TODAY Sports database reports that SIU athletics received $6.3 million from student fees and $6.4 million from school funds in fiscal year 2019. 

David Ridpath, associate professor of sports management at Ohio University and former president of The Drake Group, said SIU’s reliance on students and the university for funding means less drastic measures are needed here to offset losses. 

“In some ways you would think that SIU … is better off because they have that guaranteed revenue stream of student fees, even if enrollment is down,” Ridpath said.

Though the athletic department has lost money from these areas, Jarnigan said she can see some cost saving opportunities due to the trimmed down schedule for football season. 

Along with this, Jarnigan said they are saving money on recruitment due to NCAA rules permitting recruitment to be conducted only virtually, eliminating the cost of travel for coaches. 

However, recruiting expenses only made up 1% of total spending, or about $300,000, in 2018.

SIU is looking at cutting costs in other parts of their operation as well, and Bilas said budget cuts due to revenue losses are occurring everywhere and are painful for athletic programs. However, he also said many departments are “bloated,” spending more than what they need to.

“One of the things you have to look at is the size of your athletics department: Does it need to be that big, [and] do you need to spend that much money?” Bilas said. 

Along with scaling back on areas such as their athlete fueling station, which supplies nutrition for athletes, SIU has left several department positions empty due to the cutbacks that the department is trying to make.

“We are basically a skeleton crew here in terms of athletics, we have not filled many positions. We are without our budget officers right now and we are short a director of operations for football,” Jarnigan said.

More unfilled positions in the athletics department include academic advisors, athletic trainers and members of the development staff.

According to Bilas, staff sizes within athletic departments will be scrutinized more heavily going forward.

While SIU’s fall sports are still planning for games in the spring, Saluki basketball is still in preparation for a winter season. 

“I definitely believe there’s going to be college basketball this year,” SIU men’s basketball head coach Bryan Mullins said in an interview with the DE on Aug. 19.

While still in pre-season training, his team follows guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 while doing so. His staff members wear masks during practice and the locker room is off limits to players to avoid shared spaces, Mullins said. 

The opportunity to play games, have some fans in attendance at Banterra Center and generate advertising would prove some potential sources of revenue as well.

Editor Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25.

Sports reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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