It’s no stretch to say that the California Golden Bears are going to be hurt by the 2020 fall sports season being canceled. It’s no stretch to say that each of the 12 member universities of the Pac-12 will feel some sort of real, lasting impact by the coronavirus shutdown of their fall athletics calendar.
According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, however, even the elite programs of the Pac-12, those like Cal and Stanford, will be hurt mightily by COVID-19 and its impact on academia and athletics.
The SF Chronicle reported that Cal’s budget numbers are set to look bleak, not only within the athletics department, but even compounded on top of that, in the world of academics.
Quoting from Roger Noll, a Stanford professor who specializes in sports economics, “every school has things to cut and this crisis gives them convenient cover. It’s a mistake to believe it will be semi-painless for anyone.”
The report went even further to state that each school is set to lose anywhere between $32 to $33 million from Pac-12 conference-generated revenue, which includes $20 million from the Pac-12’s television contract.
When it got to specifics, it also stated that the financial impact on the world of academics at Cal is estimated around $340 million. Basically hinting that the athletics department is on its own because the admin and higher ups at the university have their own problems to deal with in terms of a budget crisis.
Cal Athletics Director Jim Knowlton did say, however, that cutting sports ‘would be absolutely a last resort.’ Though, Knowlton did acknowledge that Stanford made 208 permanent layoffs and 30 furloughs just last month and stated that ‘there certainly will be some personnel actions we’ll have to take.’
Despite funding, short-term borrowing and other actions taken, Cal’s gap in the fiscal year at the overall university level is said to be estimated around $65 million down on the current fiscal year.
The hinting at the athletics departments being on their own may be more than just hinting, it may be hitting the nail right on the head.
So, what does Cal and the rest of the Pac-12 do at the athletics level to stay afloat? A spring football season, as Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott kept on the table when his decision to cancel the season was announced, would be a start. Though it would also be a logistical nightmare. Even Cal QB Chase Garbers agrees there.
He described a potential spring season as just that during a conversation with the SF Chronicle. Garbers also had a bit of interesting insight into the mental health and off-field issues that players will have to endure without a fall season.
“This is obviously a big change to everyone’s life,” he said. “It’s going to be a mental hit to a lot of players, just because you’re trained to eat, sleep and breathe football 365 days a year.“It’s a pretty big learning curve for players to find out who they are outside of football.”
A lot remains to be decided but as we all know too well, unless a plan is crafted quickly, January 1 will be here before we know it, and though by then we all would have figured out what and who we are without fall sports, we don’t want to go into 2021 with having to figure out who we are without spring sports as well.