Marquette athletics braces for revenue reduction

Big East Cancelled

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As we near the 1-month mark since college basketball’s last bounce at Madison Square Garden, the question of the tangible effects of the cancellation of the sport’s biggest money maker have only grown in importance.

The NCAA announced it was reducing its distributions to schools by $375 million, from just under $600 million to $225 million in late March, but the effect on the Big East and its teams, which are particularly reliant on basketball revenue, is still to be determined.

In an exclusive conversation with Paint Touches, Athletic Director Bill Scholl said Marquette was prepared for multiple scenarios, though the conference had yet to release what the distribution would look like this year.

“We know there’s a loss. We know that our payouts, as a result of the two tournaments being cancelled and the payout from the NCAA being reduced, we certainly know that our revenue is not going to meet budget. We know that for sure.”

The university as a whole has already seen immediate impact of COVID-19, furloughing 250 employees, including members of the athletic department, amidst a $15 million shortfall.

“One of the things I love about Marquette is we aren’t an island. We’re very much a part of the university and we had to give tough news to a lot of our colleagues [Wednesday],” Scholl stated. “So there are things like that taking place, but we haven’t been able yet to kind of say here’s the amount of money that we need to figure out a way to make up, either in new revenues or expense cutbacks.”

Even so, Marquette’s administration has made it clear that non-essential spending would be limited for all sectors, including athletics.

“I think our folks on campus are doing a great job of managing it. As they get a handle on what the actual situation is, they’re rolling things out,” Scholl highlighted. “Clearly we’ve been asked to be very careful about discretionary spending. If it’s essential, and it’s to support students and student athletes, we have some ability to spend money that’s been budgeted, but in any situation that we can, we’ve been asked to not spend.”

Marquette did hire Justin Gainey as an associate head coach to replace Stan Johnson last week, luring him away from an Arizona team where he was making around $290,000 a year and exemplifying Marquette’s commitment to basketball, even during an unprecedented financial situation. Neither Gainey’s current nor Johnson’s former salary were made public.

Scholl did commend the way coaches across the athletic department had embraced the directives to date without pushing back.

“Our coaches have been phenomenal teammates,” he continued. “Everybody understands we’re in a historic place. We all have to pitch in and do what we can to help the institution stay strong.”

And although the extent of the revenue loss is still unkown, Marquette has discussed a myriad of situations, and not ruled out any potential cost-saving measures, such as cutting pay, limiting travel, or breaking out of existing contractual scheduling obligations.

“We’re modeling everything. There’s a plan A, B, C, and D,” Scholl noted. “Could things get dire enough that we need to get out of some contracts? I guess that’s possible. I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope we don’t get there. Clearly the health of the institution will be first and foremost above athletics decisions.”

The start dates for fall sports remain in place, with Scholl adding that as long as they could get student athletes to campus by early August, they’d be able to proceed as scheduled. but as with everything else, the planned portion of “as planned” would be tenuous, depending on the health outlook.

For now, it is a waiting game until MU hears from the Big East and until university leaders release the next update on Apr. 30th.

“I think we’ll have a lot better handle then,” Scholl concluded. “Perhaps by Apr. 30th, when we begin to look at what May, June, July look like, hopefully we have some better news. April 30th will be a big day for us, we’ll come out with here’s what the next 30/60/90 days look like.”

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