Attendance model threatens Georgia athletics budget; campus plans 24,000 Covid-19 tests
ATHENS — Georgia would need to adjust its athletic budget if Atlanta Falcons’ seating capacity projections are an indication of things to come.
“If you’re not at full capacity, that will create revenue shortfall across college football, that’s not new,” Georgia AD Greg McGarity told DawgNation on Wednesday. “But it’s too early to speculate until we know exactly where we are.”
The NFL franchise’s vice president told AJC.com the Falcons expect capacity to be between 10,000 and 20,000 on account of social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Normal capacity at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is more than 71,000.
The Bulldogs, scheduled to open the season against Virginia at that same state-of-the-art facility on Sept. 7, announced athletic budget plans for $149.4 million at the UGA Board of Directors meeting on June 4.
That projected budget was with full football attendance (and thus, revenue) factored in.
McGarity said Georgia officials will adjust the budget once a decision is made on the SEC scheduling model.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has indicated for months that such a decision could come in “late July.”
Sankey also said that while the SEC schools won’t necessarily take their “cues” from the pro sports attendance models, they study and learn from them.
In the meantime, Georgia has discussed different stadium social distancing models that go beyond the limited seating models released this spring in a 225-page report.
McGarity declined to elaborate on them at this time.
The Texas’ AD recently said the Longhorns plan to limit stadium capacity at 50 percent.
UGA President Jere Morehead pointed out at the June board meeting that Georgia is one of very few schools with a capable reserve fund in place.
“The one thing that we have going in our favor is that we’ve always had a reserve for moments like this,” Morehead said. “We’re certainly prepared to do what we have to do to keep our athletic program intact no matter path we go down.”
Indeed, construction on Georgia’s new $81 million football building remains on schedule, and football coaches have not been forced into salary cuts.
Football revenue hit
The Bulldogs would be down more than $70 million from last year’s football attendance-related revenue if there’s not a season, or if fans are prohibited from attending games.
Per a DawgNation FOIA request, it was learned Georgia made $34,880,000 last year in ticket sales, another $29 million in ticket contributions and $6,261,000 off skybox sales.
SEC schools, including Georgia, took in more than $44 million each in league revenue, the bulk of which emanates from the conference’s television package.
The SEC recently announced it was pushing back the start of the fall sports schedule for non-revenue sports, which should have little to no effect on football.
The SEC football programs returned to their respective campuses on June 8 for voluntary workouts under the supervision of their strength and condition coaches.
Head football coaches and football staff members were allowed to oversee the 8 hours per week of workouts starting on July 13.
The Power 5 leagues are expected to announced a uniform testing policy any day now that would provide a universal protocol for Covid-19 policy.
Options, wide-spread testing
The SEC announced last Friday that student-athletes that do not wish to partake in sports this fall will be kept in good standing and not lose their year of eligibility.
The decision to move forward with athletics has been somewhat politicized on social media.
Some suggest the “optics” aren’t good for collegiate sports to move forward amid the Covid-19 crisis with so much money on the line.
Sankey, however, made a salient point in a recent HBO interview in regard to the health and welfare of the student athletes returning to campus.
“In comparison to what?” Sankey said. “To having them workout at homes — or home gyms that may have been their own hot spots, without oversight of sports medicine specialists, without strength and conditioning coaches?”
Indeed, student-athletes are tested and under tight supervision with access to 24-7 medical care while on campus.
The University of Georgia is taken steps to deter the virus spread on campus, as well.
The school announced on Wednesday that as part of its “Return to Campus Plan” it plans to test 24,000 faculty, staff and students between Aug, 10 and Thanksgiving break.
UGA @universityofga has announced its Covid testing plan. For our campus of 35,000 students faculty and staff, the university is planning to test 24,000 people between August and Thanksgiving. No indication that students in campus housing will be tested prior to arrival. pic.twitter.com/ZOhbxWGwjj
— Dr. Janet Frick 😷 voted for Stacey Abrams 😒 (@jfrickuga) July 22, 2020
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