The Michigan athletic department laid off 21 people on Tuesday, per a release from the department.

The layoffs are the first the department has had since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March and the biggest impact so far of a budget deficit that athletic director Warde Manuel said could reach $100 million with no Big Ten football. 

The move was announced internally in an email from Manuel. The email was released to media in a statement.

“I am very sorry today to have to update you on some decisions we have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Manuel wrote. “COVID-19 and the resulting financial crisis have us facing unprecedented budget deficits, and difficult decisions have impacted some of our colleagues within the Athletic Department. Earlier today, we eliminated 21 positions through the University’s reduction in force process after notifying the affected individuals. Additionally, moving forward, we will not fill 15 jobs that have come open in recent weeks and months.

“Staff reductions are always painful, particularly when those affected are our close colleagues and friends you may have worked alongside for many years. These decisions were not made lightly, and I and the Leadership TEAM are aware of the stress and anxiety this process has created over the last few months. The evaluation and decision-making process for evaluating these positions was deliberate and thorough.”

Manuel said that impacted employees will be given support to transition to other roles within the University or elsewhere.

Previously, Manuel, football coach Jim Harbaugh and basketball coach Juwan Howard took 10 percent salary reductions for 2020, along with other staff and coaches. Manuel also asked football season ticket holders to convert their refunds into a tax-deductible gift for the athletic department. The department is also only allowed essential purchases, and there has been a reduction in all operating and team budgets.

Whether or not the Big Ten can eventually play a football season will have a massive impact on the financial outlook for the athletic department. Prior to the announcement of the season’s postponement, Manuel had announced a projected deficit of $60 million — which per Tuesday’s release could be $40 million more.

Manuel said that by Sept. 14, his leadership team will be working to evaluate furloughs and hours reductions for staffers.

“I am genuinely sorry for the position we find ourselves (in) and that I had to communicate in this manner,” Manuel wrote. “Please support each other and your impacted colleagues during this time.”

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