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Warde Manuel: Michigan athletic department faces 'unparalleled level of financial uncertainty'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, in a letter to football season-ticket holders, said the athletic department has budgeted $61 million less in revenues this year and  could increase to triple digits if a decision is made not to play sports this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manuel sent the letter Thursday, a day after the Big Ten released a 10-game football schedule for this fall. Because there will be limited or no fans at Michigan’s five games at Michigan Stadium this fall, the department is “navigating a historic financial challenge” and has implemented cost-cutting measures.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, in a letter to football season-ticket holders, said the athletic department has budgeted $61 million less in revenues this year and  could increase to triple digits if a decision is made not to play sports this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June, Manuel presented to the UM Regents a projected budget deficit of $26.1 million.

The department’s resolve, Manuel wrote, is to support the more than 900 student-athletes at the university.

“Given the anticipated loss of revenue due to limited or no fans at our games, our department faces an unparalleled level of financial uncertainty,” Manuel wrote in the letter to season-ticket holders. “As a direct result of COVID-19, we budgeted $61 million less in revenues this year which could easily double if the decision is made to not play any sports.

“In addition, we are also facing significant costs related to safely returning our student-athletes and staff to campus with COVID-19 protocols in place. Additionally, if fans are allowed to attend games this season, we are ready to implement significant measures to safely welcome them to our facilities.”

Manuel said there will be a 28% reduction in team and game expenses, about $10.9 million, mainly because of reductions in team travel, recruiting, and equipment among other things. Operating expenses will be reduced 25%, about $3.8 million, because of reductions in administrative travel and expenses of hosting home sporting events.

The department has reduced salaries by nearly $4 million department-wide. Manuel, football coach Jim Harbaugh and basketball coach Juwan Howard have taken 10% salary cuts. There also is a year-long hiring freeze for non-essential positions.

Michigan will not offer football season tickets this year and tickets will not be sold to the general public. In the letter, he asked season ticket-holders to consider converting their priority seat payments toward a tax-deductible gift to the Champions Fund. For those who convert those payments, there will be various incentives like priority bonus points and a reduction in the season ticket amount next season.

“These are challenging times for everyone and this request of you does not come lightly or without pursuing all other alternatives,” Manuel wrote.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis