Local college athletic departments preparing for financial hits after NCAA cancellations

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The move by the NCAA to cancel winter postseason tournaments, spring sports and tournaments, will be costly to colleges and universities.

Just how costly it will be and where the pain will hit for Division III schools like Williams College is not yet known.

"I don't know yet, because they haven't told us where they're going to implement these cuts and where they're going to be felt," Williams athletic director Lisa Melendy said.

The NCAA put out a pair of press releases citing the future drops in revenue to schools. The NCAA's Board of Governors voted unanimously to distribute $225 million in June to Division I members. The release stated that revenue distribution was originally budget at $600 million.

Division III schools, according to a release dated March 26, will receiver 3.18% of actual revenues, currently project to be $10.7 million. That's a drop of $22 million from the previous year.

"Are they going to decrease the size of championships? Right now, 75 percent of the Division III budget is for championships and 25 percent on educational-type stuff, and support to the schools for different programming," Melendy said, when reached by The Eagle. "They haven't told us yet where they're going to make the cuts. If it's on the programming side, that does not impact us much, frankly. We don't rely on that a lot. We take what they give us."

Williams has, of course, been closed down because of the coronavirus. But it has also been on an extended spring break, which ends the week of April 6.

Melendy said that some of the money lost is to purchase co-branded NCAA merchandise, which is a big deal for some schools to use in their facilities. But the Williams athletic director said that she would like to see the championship schedules themselves remain the same.

"I've always been one who felt that I would rather put the bulk of our money into championships, the NCAA money," Melendy said. "I don't know if they'll reduce the amount of per diem. Those things impact us because when we travel to championships, we get reimbursed by the NCAA. Sometimes it costs us more than we get reimbursed."

One thing the Williams athletic director would not like to see is any sort of a cut in the number of teams that qualify for NCAA Division III tournaments.

"I would do much less of the spending on the non-championship side," she said, "to allow the student-athletes to continue to have a similar championship experience. Maybe cut out some of the gifts that some kids get. It's my own personal opinion, but do you need, when you go to the Final Four, as much gear as you get? It's exciting, but to me, playing the games is the more important part."

Division I athletics programs are in a different situation than schools like Williams, because of the number of sports and scholarship athletes on campuses. The athletic director at the University of Massachusetts said it is something that he and his staff have begun looking into.

"We've been looking at it intently. It's essentially, the full budget number from the NCAA perspective is that it's about a third less revenue then they anticipated," Ryan Bamford said, when reached at home last week. "They're going to get some insurance money back and they're going to borrow against that. For us, it's a deep cut.

"We'll take it in [Fiscal Year] '20, but we anticipate, but we don't know yet ... we'll have to take a haircut in FY '21 as well from the NCAA money."

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This could have been a pretty good year for UMass and the Atlantic 10 Conference. While the only way the Minutemen were going to make the NCAA Tournament was to have won the tourney title in Brooklyn, it seemed as if A-10 member Dayton was going to be, at worst, a No. 2 seed. With the high seed came the potential of winning multiple tournament games. That would result in multiple units being awarded to conferences.

A unit is awarded for each automatic bid to the basketball tournament and one unit for each at-large team that qualifies. Additional units are awarded based on tourney victories.

According to herosports.com, Bamford's Minutemen shared in $3,363,600 from last year's appearances of Saint Louis and VCU in the NCAA Tournament.

It was expected that at least two and possibly three A-10 teams would have made the field of 68. And with a possible Final Four run in Dayton's future, it could have been a lucrative tournament for the conference.

"That is going to hurt us for the next five or six years, that we won't get those units," Bamford said. "It's going to be a significant adjustment for us, not only as we finish out the fiscal year by June 30, but certainly for the few fiscal years. That's what we're planning."

The UMass AD said that his administration has not yet put together a plan. He does not know what the financial cost will be, since the NCAA has not officially reported that to the schools.

"We're anticipating it's going to be no more than half of the revenue. I think that's a best case scenario, half of what we were expecting to get," he said.

UMass can put the money budgeted for spring sport expenses and some financial aid monies back into the budget. Some of the students on aid won't need their housing or meal money, since school is being taught remotely for the duration of the spring semester.

"That's what we're in the process of modeling right now, is how that's going to impact the end of this fiscal year in the next three months and then what do we do to plan for next year," Bamford said, "when all of those events are back on, but we have less revenue."

The situation at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., is similar. Siena is a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and it would have lost its unit or units from whichever team won the MAAC Tournament title in Atlantic City, N.J.

"It's pretty significant," Siena athletic director John D'Argenio said. "While the amounts may not sound big to some, for schools like ours, when you lose what could be $400,000, that's a significant revenue hit. At our institution, those dollars get earmarked to general college revenues and our budget gets cast after that. It's not necessarily a direct hit, but an indirect hit, and it certainly makes a difference."

D'Argenio said that some of the budget cutting could hit the student assistance fund, which he said will have to keep an eye on. The Siena coaches and administrators have begun to look at different budgeting models in order to make the potential cuts as painless as possible.

The Siena basketball program, the most prominent team on campus, spends the vast majority of its year on down-and-back bus rides, so the AD said these cuts might not have to trim back who the Saints play.

"We're very regional, bus-ride oriented," D'Argenio said. "Those games that we do schedule that involve a flight is usually a 'guarantee' game or an exempted event, where your expenses are being paid for you. How we do things, and the great part of our league is that it's so compact, we don't need to fly. When you look at our [non-conference] schedule from last year, we're playing Colgate, we're playing Yale, we're playing Harvard — all teams that are an easy bus ride."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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