CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman expects at least a $20 million loss to the Department of Intercollegiate budget due to COVID-19 and says it could be even more substantial if the fallout of pandemic continues. Whitman met with reporters for nearly two hours on Thursday during his annual ‘State of the Program’ address, saying his leadership team is doing everything it can to keep their student-athletes safe in order to play this fall.
“I know that the cynic in all of us says, ‘It’s about the money and that these decisions are being driven exclusively by financial considerations,'” Whitman said. “I really don’t like it when people question motives. I’m not going to sit here and say we have no financial considerations in this calculus, that wouldn’t be true.”
Whitman said the DIA lost between $2-$4 million in FY2020. College football is a multi-billion dollar industry every year, making decisions to cancel or postpone the season difficult. The financial implications are huge, with most athletic departments, including Illinois, relying on football based revenue every year. More than $4 billion in revenue comes from football every fall from the 50-plus Power 5 public schools, according to a report from USA Today.
“We’ve all tried to get back to some degree of normalcy as quickly as we can, and in whatever manner we can, so long as we believe it’s safe,” Whitman added. “That’s in essence what we’re doing here. So as long as we can do it and do it in a way where we feel like we can provide for their health and safety, we’re going to do it.”
To help offset costs, Whitman announced he will take a 15 percent pay cut for the next 12 months. He had previously announced he would take 10 percent less in salary for six months. Whitman added there’s “no way to make up” a $20 million deficit, adding he expects it will take between two to four years before things even out in the DIA books.