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LSU Administration Preparing for Every Possible Scenario as College Football Future Remains Unclear

SI's Ross Dellenger provides the latest on how the LSU athletic department is handling the coronavirus pandemic

We all just want to know that there's an end to this dark tunnel, one that's bright and features a return to normalcy. Right now, that bright light is very hard to see in the distance because there is so much unknown.

In the college sports world, the unknown is whether or not college football will return in 2020 and if it does, what will it look like. Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde laid out the potential options for football to return in the fall. 

The three most common options that were laid out was a delayed start to the season in October, a season that started in October with only conference games being played and starting the season relatively on time but with no fans in the stands.

On Friday, Dellenger joined LSUCountry to talk about how the LSU administration specifically is handling the possible scenarios from a revenue standpoint while also protecting the health and safety of the student athletes.

The LSU football program generated over $56 million in revenue during the 2016-17 season alone, with basketball and baseball being the only other two sports to make a profit. The other 18 sports in the athletic department, lost a total of $24.2 million. 

"LSU is a great example of a program that relies more on football, or at least brings in more money than most programs," Dellenger said. "It's a great illustration of the top 20, 25 programs in the nation that make so much money on football. It's 85% of their revenue."

Woodward is working with a couple of financial advisers to plan out options and contingency plans as it pertains to college football if or when it does return. But even with all of the planning, there's a widespread expectation that revenue will be severely impacted.

One athletic director even told Dellenger that as much as 20% of their program's revenue could be lost, and that's playing it on the safe side. 

"AD's across the nation, even if we have some kind of football, it's not going to be normal and it's definitely not going to be generating the kind of revenue that it has produced in the past," Dellenger said. "They're all planning for some kind of hit financially."

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When the collegiate sports world first ended just a little less than a month ago, just getting student athletes off campus and back home was Woodward and the administration's primary goal. The safety of the student athletes was an area Woodward addressed almost exclusively in a teleconference interview with members of the LSU media about three weeks ago.

While the focus has shifted to some degree nearly three weeks later, Dellenger did say a big part of Woodward's concentration is checking in with the head coaches, who are in constant contact with their players.

"You've gotta remember, that some of these players, speaking on football's terms here, but their home is that dorm and that football facility," Dellenger said. "Sometimes they go back home and it's not necessarily the environment that you want them to be in. That's a concern among some people over there [at LSU] I've talked to because the virus is particularly bad there, especially New Orleans. Their whole point is they'd almost be safer just staying in the dorms.

"You sense some frustration that their players were forced to go home because I think a lot of them wanted to stay. Safety is a concern for Scott and where his student athletes are."

While there's a lot of optimism that college football will be played, it's always prudent for any business to prepare for the best and worst cases. Obviously the worst case scenario would be if the college football season is ultimately canceled in 2020.

These are conversations Woodward and the LSU administration are having but it doesn't feel like the Tigers will be in a dire situation according to Dellenger. Between the TAF (Tiger Athletic Foundation) and other revenue streams, the athletic department would be able to survive without having to cut sports, should college football not return in 2020.

"That's the worst case scenario and you'll probably see it from programs across the nation in terms of cutting sports but LSU wouldn't be one of them," Dellenger said. "They have too much other moneys that I doubt they'd have to cut any sports."

Because going through the process of eliminating a sport is so long and arduous, bringing it back would be difficult to pull off, which is why it's so important for college football to be around in some form or fashion this fall. 

What Dellenger considers a possibility is a one year furlough of certain aspects of sports. In other words, whether it be salaries, staff cuts, or monitoring different ways to travel, it might allow room to suspend the sport for a year and then be able to bring it back once the dust settles.

"I think if you cut a sport, you cut a sport," Dellenger said. "It's such a massive undertaking, to bring it all back would be surprising."