LINCOLN — The Nebraska athletic department announced Friday sweeping measures to reduce its budget by 10% for the fiscal year beginning July 1, including cuts in administrative positions across the department.
According to NU’s athletic department budget for 2018-19, expenses totaled more than $124 million. Presuming expenses increased in the year since, that would mean the cut to the 2020-21 budget could be more than $13 million.
An athletic department spokesman said Friday that NU had already spoken with the employees affected and wouldn’t announce who was laid off. The department has more than 350 employees.
“In our deliberate planning for how to best address a decline in expected revenue, we attempted to institute measures that would minimize the impact on the student-athlete experience,” NU Athletic Director Bill Moos said in a press release. “While many of these necessary changes are difficult, especially those impacting our employees, we hope that they will be the only ones necessary in the months ahead. I am confident that we will weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.
“I want to acknowledge the work and commitment of those employees who will no longer be with us and thank them for their service to Nebraska. We wish them all of the best in their future endeavors.”
Moos declined to comment beyond what was in the press release.
NU outlined several cost-cutting measures for the upcoming fiscal year:
» A reduction in approximately 10% of administrative positions across the department.
» No merit raises for department employees.
» No increases in any teams’ budgets for the upcoming year.
» Programs are encouraged to build a more regional nonconference road schedule, which will limit public exposures and allow for a reduction in travel costs.
» All administrative units across the department have been asked to reduce budgets by 10%.
» All staff travel (excluding recruiting) will be greatly restricted over the coming year.
» A reduction in recurring capital expenditures.
» Summer programming for student-athletes will be limited in 2021.
Nebraska took in more than $136 million in revenue in 2018-19, but revenue for 2019-20 was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The virus will continue to have an impact for 2020-21, especially if fewer fans are let into Memorial Stadium for football games or if TV contracts are altered.
NU had already delayed groundbreaking on its $155 million football facility, set to open in 2022, as the university system faces a $43 million shortfall.
Football coach Scott Frost and men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg announced Thursday that they’ve volunteered to donate part of their salaries back to the athletic department. Frost makes $5 million per year while Hoiberg makes $3 million with an additional $1 million bonus that was to come July 1. The amount of Frost’s and Hoiberg’s donations won’t be known until the 2020-21 budget is finalized.
Nebraska football doesn’t play a road nonconference game in 2020. The men’s basketball nonconference schedule includes four away games — three at the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Invitational and one in Kansas City, Missouri, against Kansas State.
Volleyball coach John Cook said recently that NU decided against traveling to a tournament at Stanford to save money. The beach volleyball program saved considerable money in the spring when its annual trip to Hawaii was canceled by the pandemic.
Many teams that compete in the winter and spring are crafting their nonconference schedules now. The track and field team, for example, tends to finalize those plans in the summer.
Track and field coach Gary Pepin said everything is up in the air.
“It’s going to be a long, drawn-out process,” Pepin said. “There are meets we normally would go to that they’ve said they’re not going to be having.”
Pepin said administrators told him not to schedule any outdoor home track meets at this time. The Huskers typically have a couple each year, but it’s not clear whether NU will have a home track.
Its old home, the Ed Weir Stadium, is the site of the new football practice facility. Groundbreaking hasn’t started yet on that facility. Moos told The World-Herald last month that he didn’t know when it would begin because of budgetary concerns. Nor does Pepin know if NU’s new track, which is set to be built across the street from the Devaney Center, will be ready, though he’s been told construction is still planned for this year.
The announced budget cuts are the latest domino to fall in a state and national economy deeply affected by the pandemic. The University of Nebraska system announced a $43 million shortfall Friday, with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s budget being cut by 5.5% over the next three years.
NU’s athletic department — one of the financially healthiest in the nation — has rarely been heavily impacted by economic downturns.
NU athletics receives no student fees or university funding and gives money back to the university. There is thought to be a reserve fund of roughly $60 million into which Nebraska can dip for building projects, as well.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated athletic department expenses for 2018-19 totaled about $81 million. That figure is actually more than $124 million. Additionally, the earlier version had revenue for 2018-19 at $122 million, but that figure is actually $136 million.
Budget cuts would be higher if not for the tuition initiatives that will pump up enrollment, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter said. "This could have been so much worse."