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Sources: College Football Season Is in Jeopardy, Could Devastate Cities, Universities

Financial losses can devastate schools, athletics programs, and communities.

Posted: Aug 9, 2020 8:27 PM
Updated: Aug 10, 2020 11:53 AM

UPDATE: The Big Ten has voted to cancel the college football season. The Detroit Free Press reports that the Big Ten is trying to coordinate its announcement with other conferences.


The closure of the University of Alabama cost the city of Tuscaloosa an average of $600,000 a week. If the college football season doesn’t happen, the city estimates it will lose $175.5 million. That’s going to mean a significant hit to the city coffers. Mayor Walt Maddox says they’ve been fortunate to accumulate $42 million in the city’s reserve fund, but it won’t cover losses due to college football.

It's a similar story throughout the country.  In the College Station area, businesses estimate 20% of their annual revenue comesfrom activities related to Texas A&M.

That’s just two cities. Throughout the country, experts say it will add up to a $4 billion dollar loss.

It’s looking more likely there won’t be CFB this year.

A cancellation of the 2020 college football season this fall is unavoidable after the MAC canceled its season earlier in the day, two prominent Power Five athletic directors told CBS Sports

“A cancellation of the 2020 college football season this fall is unavoidable after the MAC canceled its season earlier in the day, two prominent Power Five athletic directors told CBS Sports” — CBS Sports

The Mid American Conference was the first to announce. They’ve officially postponed the season until the spring.

“It is our responsibility to give our student-athletes an experience that allows them to participate at the highest level in the safest manner possible. After consulting with our Medical Advisory Panel, we felt there were just too many unknowns surrounding the pandemic for us to proceed with the fall season.” — MAC Statement

The Big Ten has also stopped full-contact practices from taking place and the Big Ten Commissioner reportedly wants to also postpone until spring, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“The Big Ten Conference announced today, based on the advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, that, until further notice, all institutions will remain in the first two days of the acclimatization period in football (i.e., helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear) as we continue to transition prudently through preseason practice” — Statement from the Big Ten

Sports reporters close to the game are sending negative signals about CFB this season.  Mike Florio cites multiple reports that the college footballs season will be toast within the week. Pat Forde reports a prominent industry source saying they think all fall sports will be postponed.

Brett McMurphy reports a source from within the Power 5 as saying the “College football season is done."

Besides the MAC, the Big Sky Conference also announced a cancellation. No college football for them.

Big Ten and Pac 12 players posted their concerns on the Players Tribune recently and asked the NCAA to “devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players.”

It’s Already Taken a Toll

It’s already taken a toll on athletic programs. Since football pays the bulk of the bills, schools have had to make tough decision. Soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, baseball, track and field, golf, cross country, and tennis program have been eliminated to save money. More than 20 FBS athletic department have instituted furloughs or pay cuts.

Oregon’s AD Scott Barnes told ESPN that almost 85% of all revenue to the athletic department comes directly or indirectly from the football program. The response may be almost immediate. Less than half of FBS programs in the Power Five have financial reserves. Of those that do, the reserves can be drawn down quickly without student fees, ticket fees, and conference/NCAA distributions. Outside the power 5, only 26% of programs have any reserves.

In projecting losses for the year, here’s what Universities said was most at risk:

  1. Donations
  2. Ticket Sales
  3. Conference distributions
  4. NCAA distribution
  5. Sponsorships
  6. Student Fees

Whether schools get paid for TV and radio rights will depend on the contractual obligations both parties agreed to. Because of the dollars involved, there may be litigation about the details.

TV/Radio Rights Fees

  • $432m — SEC
  • $339m — PAC-12
  • $277m — ACC
  • ·$37m — Big Ten

While figures were not immediately available for the SEC, the schools in the Big Ten could be staring at a combined loss in revenue of just shy of a billion dollars ($950 million).

Tuscaloosa Image: By RhYno12 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1730888

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