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The South Carolina athletics department projects a $46 million shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, athletic director Ray Tanner said during Friday morning’s board of trustees meeting.
That total combines a $27 million shortfall from the fiscal year 2021-22 and a projected shortfall of $19 million for the fiscal year 2022-23. The university will provide funds to cover that $46 million figure, with repayment to begin in fiscal year 2024-25.
While addressing the board, Tanner said this year’s $27 million deficit is better than average for Southeastern Conference schools, which averaged a $45 million shortfall per school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida reported a $54.5 million athletics shortfall in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
“I commend our coaches and staff for their ability to work under trying circumstances and continue to give our student-athletes a positive experience this past year,” Tanner said in a prepared statement. “Our medical team and training staff did an outstanding job of keeping our student-athletes healthy and safe and meeting all of the COVID protocols as specified by the DHEC, CDC, the SEC and our University.”
Much of those financial losses stem from limited capacity at football games during the fall, combined with expenses for COVID-19 testing and safety precautions. South Carolina played just five home football games instead of seven in 2020, with a maximum of 25% capacity. In normal times, Williams-Brice Stadium holds more than 80,000 fans.
As part of cost-cutting measures, the athletic department’s highest-paid employees took voluntary cuts in pay and the department implemented furloughs and hiring freezes.
The SEC gave each member school $23 million to help offset the pandemic impact.
Tanner told the board Friday that the return of full-capacity football games in the fall and the hiring of new head coach Shane Beamer have created optimism and excitement for the football program. He said he believes the athletic department, which generally provides $4 million to $5 million in funds to the university, should return to self-sufficiency by 2022-2023.
“We are working to get back to full strength with our budget for 2022-23,” Tanner said. “We will still need to be conscientious with the budget, but I believe we will be able to give our student-athletes and coaches the means necessary to compete for SEC and national championships.”