When the COVID-19 pandemic began ravaging the nation, it was unclear what it would do to college athletic departments around the country.
Now nine months into it, and it's very clear that athletic departments will be taking massive hits. This has caused furloughs, layoffs and in terrible situations, cancelations of entire sports programs.
Utah is no exception to this, as athletic director Mark Harlan announced in early September there would be department-wide furloughs and layoffs in response to the economic impact due to the pandemic.
"As I have previously shared, the financial challenges that we are facing at Utah has led us to make difficult — but necessary — decisions to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic,” Harlan said a month ago. “These changes include furloughs of various lengths for every department employee — including me, our executive cabinet and our head and assistant coaches. In addition, in some select cases, we have also eliminated positions through reductions in force. We also have eliminated all performance bonuses until further notice.”
Now according to a report by USA Today, Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham will be one the coaches most impacted fiscally for the upcoming 2020 college football season.
With an original salary set at $5 million for the 2020 season, Whittingham is now expected to make $4,634,178 — taking a pay cut of $365,822. That amount is the second highest in the nation for the upcoming season, with Florida State's Mike Norvell taking the highest pay cut of $468,750 this season.
Interestingly enough, Alabama Nick Saban, LSU's Ed Orgeron and Clemson's Dabo Swinney — the top three highest paid coaches in the nation annually who all make over $8 million per year — will not be taking pay cuts this season.
But Swinney will be losing $1.25 million next season as part of his pandemic reduction, while Saban and Swinney will not be losing any money due to the pandemic.
Whittingham, the Pac-12's highest paid coach, was the 14th highest paid coach in the country this season. But with his reduction, he is now the 20th highest paid coach in college football, still tops in the Pac-12 though.
Some coaches elected to take their pay cuts net season (as with the case with Swinney), but Whittingham's total reduction of $365,822 is 13th highest in the country.
What's most apparent when looking at the list of reductions is that the SEC essentially operates as its own enterprise.
Of the top 20 programs to take financial hits and pay cuts, only one SEC coach (South Carolina's Will Muschmap) was the only one listed. The Big 12 led the way with seven coaches listed, while the Big Ten, ACC and the Pac-12 had four each.
“Well, certainly there is an economic impact of this and certainly we are not surprised that we are in this position. It’s something that was a possibility. As such, our team has been planning for this possible outcome," Harlan said a few weeks ago. "Candidly, we believe it’s anywhere from $50-$60 million loss. Could be more depending on various different elements on a $91 million budget. We understand that is going to cause us to have to make some very difficult decisions as it relates to the operation of our department this year. We had an all-staff meeting about an hour ago and we said the same thing."
According to athletic department's staff directory, the department contains more than 200 employees — but Harlan didn't specify who or how many employees were terminated or furloughed.
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