University of Arizona freezing athletic spending amid projected $7.5 million revenue shortfall

The University of Arizona athletic department projects a $7.5 million revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year ending in June due to the current coronavirus outbreak and has frozen all athletic spending, hiring and raises, according to an internal memo obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

The memo, which was sent by athletics director Dave Heeke to coaches and athletics staffers, also hinted that expenses could be cut as part of the budgeting process for the 2021 fiscal year, including for “a variety of administrative, operational, sport program, scholarship and compensation areas.” The memo later suggests that pay cuts could be part of the budgeting process as part of “aligning future compensation decisions with university guidance and planning.” 

Athletics departments across the country are bracing for the financial impact of COVID-19 on their operations, including loss of revenue from the NCAA basketball tournament and other spring sports as well as potential losses in future donations and ticket sales. A handful of athletics departments have already announced pay cuts or cancellation of bonuses, and Cincinnati became the first school with a prominent football program to cut a sport on Tuesday, announcing that it would no longer field a men’s soccer team. 

Heeke’s letter to Arizona staffers noted that the school had extended deadlines for season ticket holders to renew for football and basketball in hopes that that revenue, which would not count toward this fiscal year, could help offset future losses. 

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“I want to be clear, the overall shortfall in revenue could be much more,” Heeke wrote. “While we all want answers, there is still so much that is uncertain with this worldwide crisis and its short and long-term impacts.”

Arizona’s most recent financial disclosures indicate that it generated $105.1 million in total operating revenue in 2019. 

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