Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel didn’t mince words when discussing the financial impact of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the 2020 football season.
Appearing on Jon Jansen’s “Conqu’ring Heroes” podcast Tuesday, Manuel claimed the lost revenue could exceed $100 million — nearly half of the entire athletic department’s budget. While the final figure is still in flux, he says the department is “working through some models” to arrive at a number at some point in September.
“It is a significant loss, so we have to take as many significant reductions as we can and cutbacks as we have already as we continue to do a budget, salary reductions and those kinds of things,” Manuel said. “We just keep moving through and trying to figure it out.”
At the end of June, Michigan announced voluntary 10-percent salary reductions for Manuel, men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard and football coach Jim Harbaugh. A number of other coaches and athletic administrators across the country did the same, but with the Big Ten’s postponement of this fall’s football season, more difficult decisions loom large.
“It has been a substantial impact on the department,” Manuel said. “Tough, hard, sad decisions have been made as we have to make cuts to expenses to offset reduction in revenue. Everybody is going through that in our society.”
“… It’s not easy to think of all the things we have to give up that we’re normally used to having, but that’s where we find ourselves during this time. Difficult choices have to be made in order for the long-term health of the department, the long-term health of the university. The president and the board also have to make decisions about that and what needs to go on there, like companies are doing across the world.”
Manuel’s $100 million estimate comes on the heels of an email to season ticket holders last month that asked fans to convert their 2020 payments to a tax-deductible gift in an effort to alleviate what he called “an unparalleled level of financial uncertainty.” During Tuesday’s podcast appearance, Manuel expressed gratitude to the fans who complied, though the difference may only scratch the surface of the $100 million mountain.
“I appreciate all of the support that our season-ticket holders gave to us by donating back to the champions fund, just remarkable, super support,” Manuel said. “I am immensely thankful.”
Even as the athletic department attempts to navigate a year of financial challenges, Manuel’s main focus hasn’t wavered since the pandemic began in March.
“This is not about us playing the games for playing the games’ sake and not wanting to take a break during the pandemic,” Manuel said. “It’s not about financials. We already know the financial impact is going to be very significant on our department. I made that announcement in June.
“It is really about the effort and trying for our student-athletes who want to compete. But we need to make sure we can do it safely, we need to make sure we can answer the questions, and we have the best protocols in place for our student-athletes moving forward to play.”