LAWRENCE — Kansas athletic director Jeff Long has provided an update on his department’s financial footing.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Jayhawk donors, Long outlined the "aggressive steps" his team has implemented to ensure solid positioning for the upcoming fiscal year, a period of anticipated adversity amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The KU athletic department projects "at a minimum" a 20% decrease in revenue for 2020-21, Long said.
"That amount of money is not something we will be able to easily overcome," Long wrote, "but through efficient and effective planning, as well as consistent financial support from you, we have confidence we will come through the effects of the pandemic and continue to be a strong and vibrant athletic program."
Compared to last year at this time, KU’s athletic department is facing a deficit of $2,896,867 in annual pledge commitments ($17,529,407 versus $14,632,540) and a decrease of 510 among donors that renewed their pledges (3,769 versus 3,259). Potential limitations on fan capacity at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse could present additional challenges — 18% of the department’s operating budget in 2019 was generated from ticket sales.
To combat the expected losses of the fiscal year ahead, KU has implemented several measures, including a 15% to 20% reduction for all departments and sports budgets, staff furloughs and salary reductions totaling more than $1 million in cost savings, and a department hiring freeze that will leave any "non-essential jobs" vacant.
Additionally, KU has refinanced its debt obligations, estimating the elimination of nearly $10 million in expenses from the pre-COVID-19 operating budget for 2020-21 ($108.7 million).
"We know that the Kansas Jayhawks will endure this adversity," Long wrote, "and emerge stronger and better moving forward."
Long also touched on the uncertainty facing the Jayhawk football program, which is now scheduled to play host to Southern Illinois in an Aug. 29 season opener that replaced a now-canceled Sept. 5 contest against New Hampshire.
Long wrote that the decision to move the season opener up a week was done for health, safety and competitive reasons — KU can now begin fall camps Friday, allowing the program to get its players in "a controlled environment (as much as reasonably possible)," Long said, one week ahead of schedule.
"I know many of you have questions about what this season will look like, and candidly, we all do as well," Long wrote. "We cannot with complete confidence answer all of those questions in this ever-changing environment but I want to share with you what we know to be true and accurate at this point in time."
KU continues to project multiple fan capacity scenarios for David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, including 100%, 50% "and less" models, Long said. If fans are in attendance at events, they can expect the implementation of contactless ticketing procedures, social distancing in public spaces, mandatory mask wearing and hand hygiene stations.
Jayhawk football season ticket holders have renewed at a 90% clip this season, Long said, noting those individuals are protected by the department’s ticket assurance plan.
"I’m sure there is a sense of frustration that there has not been a decision made in regards to capacity at The Booth," Long continued. "We continue to learn more and more each day regarding COVID-19 and safety measures to possibly implement, and all of that information will factor into the final capacity decision. We simply do not want to be premature and settle on a capacity percentage if it isn’t in the best interest of our fans, student-athletes and the KU community. We do not take your patience for granted and will provide details in the next couple of weeks."