UNC Athletics faces a potential $52 million loss in revenue

These truly are unprecedented times for the world and college sports. This week, in a post on GoHeels.com, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham stated that if the 2020 Fall sports seasons and the men’s basketball season are shortened or cancelled, UNC athletics could lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $52 million revenue.

This shortfall would come from the loss of several revenue streams: ticket sales, sponsorship and television revenue, conference distributions and concessions sales.

According to Cunningham, UNC athletics is staring down a $15 million loss in ticket revenue — and a $30 million loss overall, potentially — even if they allowed fans at 30 percent for Kenan Stadium/football and 50 percent capacity for the Smith Center/men’s basketball. (At this point, capacity numbers are unofficial.)

Prior to the pandemic hitting, the athletics department was ready to have a budget of $110 million. That, however, has changed, according to Cunningham — along with other cost-saving measures.

We already have cut our sport budgets by 10 percent for 2020-21, implemented a spending freeze, halted non-essential travel and left 16 full-time open positions in the department unfilled. Additional contingency plans, as I have shared with our staff, include difficult decisions such as salary and personnel reductions and limiting services. We also must evaluate future scholarship and sport program costs.

On Thursday this week, the ACC unveiled its official schedule for the 2020 college football season: 10 conference games, one non-conference matchup. North Carolina, like every other ACC teams, is slated to have six home games: five conference opponents, one (yet to be announced) non-conference team.

      • Sept. 12 — Syracuse
      • Sept. 19 — Non-conference (TBA)
      • Oct. 10 — Virginia Tech 
      • Oct. 24 — NC State
      • Nov. 14 — Wake Forest
      • Nov. 27 — Notre Dame (Friday)

Back in late July, UNC athletics cancelled season tickets for the 2020 football season; however, there are plans to work on some level of seating capacity this fall at Kenan Stadium. All ticket sales will also be moved to a mobile/digital platform for the 2020 season.

From a financial standpoint, the loss of the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was a blow. But back in late April, ACC Commissioner John Swofford stated that, for the 2019-20 athletics calendar, distributions to ACC schools would be mostly fine — five percent less than projections.

The calculus changes entirely, though, as the calendar flips to the 2020-21 academic/athletics year. Football, especially, is such a powerful driver of revenue in normal year. With that sport in a seriously precarious position — who knows how many of these games will even take place — the entire business model is vulnerable.


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