From the Desk of Athletics Director Jeff Long
One month from today, we plan to kick-off the 2020 football season at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium vs. Southern Illinois on August 29th. While there are many unknowns relative to the COVID-19 pandemic on many levels, I wanted to share an update with you on where things currently stand within Kansas Athletics.
First, after consultation with our medical advisors and University leadership, we made the decision to fill our opening created by New Hampshire’s game cancellation with a regional opponent in Southern Illinois. We decided to play the game a week earlier in the season for both health and safety reasons, as well as competitive reasons. Without going into great detail, moving the game up a week put us into official fall camp one week earlier, which allows us to be in a controlled environment (as much as reasonably possible) and gives us a better chance of being healthy for the first game. This would also provide us a week off between our opening game and our Big 12 Conference game against Baylor, which again, would make it more likely we would be able to enter the second game healthy.
Our student-athletes, coaches and staff are working diligently and cautiously to prepare for a fall football season, with the first practice scheduled for Friday. This process has many challenges, but we are making progress. While we are excited in this next step for sports to return, we are keeping the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes as the number one priority. I know many of you have questions about what this season will look like, and candidly, we all do as well. We cannot with complete confidence answer all of those questions in this ever-changing environment but I want to share with you what we know to be true and accurate at this point in time.
I hope the information that follows, detailing some of our plans for intercollegiate sports at KU this academic year, will be useful information as we proceed through these uncertain times.
Donor and Fan Support
Our student-athletes and all of us at Kansas Athletics rely on your support, now more than ever before. Your cheers and chants prevent the opposing offense from converting on 3rd and short, provide unrivaled energy in Allen Fieldhouse, give the pitcher an extra rush adrenaline with a full count, and help our student-athletes exert the last bit of energy when crossing the finish line. More importantly, your financial support directly impacts student-athletes across all 18 of our sports through the funding of scholarship and operational needs. From the previous fiscal year, 45% of our operating budget was generated from ticket sales and contributions (8% Break The Cycle Contributions + 18% ticket sales + 19% contributions). Here is a financial update of contributions this year compared to last year at this time.
|Annual Pledge Commitments||$17,529,407||$14,632,540||-$2,896,867|
|Donors Renewed Pledge||3,769||3,259||-510|
2020-21 Budget Update
We have taken aggressive steps to best position our financial outlook for the upcoming year. At a minimum, Kansas Athletics projects a 20% decrease in revenue in 2020-21. That amount of money is not something we will be able to easily overcome but through efficient and effective planning, as well as consistent financial support from you, we have confidence we will come through the effects of the pandemic and continue to be a strong and vibrant athletic program. To prepare for this impact of this challenging time, the strategic measures below have already been taken:
- 15-20% reduction for all department and sports budgets
- Staff furlough and salary reductions totaling over $1 million in cost savings
- Department hiring freeze, leaving any non-essential jobs vacant
Additionally, through refinancing debt obligations, these initiatives combine to eliminate nearly $10 million in expenses from our 2020-21 pre-COVID-19 operating budget of $108.7 million.
Football Ticket Information
Kansas Athletics continues to work closely with local and state health officials to determine options for attendance and capacity at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium this fall. We were thrilled to see Jayhawk football season ticket holders renew at over 90% this year and know you are excited to cheer on Coach Miles and the team this season. Should stadium capacity restrictions impact ticket availability, please know that your investment and purchases are always safe with Kansas Athletics. Please see our Ticket Assurance Plan for more information.
Football Stadium Safety Plans
We are committed to providing a safe stadium environment for all fans and visitors when play resumes at our Kansas home venues. Plans are being developed for implementing contactless ticketing procedures, social distancing in public spaces, mandatory mask wearing, hand hygiene stations throughout concourses and many other health measures. We will be providing detailed information of each of these areas and what it may look like to attend a football game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. As I have said previously, we are planning for multiple capacity scenarios including 100%, 50% and less. We remain in constant communication with the Douglas County Health officials and will utilize specific guidelines from them to determine capacity percentages at our sports facilities.
I’m sure there is a sense of frustration that there has not been a decision made in regards to capacity at The Booth. We continue to learn more and more each day regarding COVID-19 and safety measures to possibly implement, and all of that information will factor into the final capacity decision. We simply do not want to be premature and settle on a capacity percentage if it isn’t in the best interest of our fans, student-athletes and the KU community. We do not take your patience for granted and will provide details in the next couple of weeks.
Your outreach and support of our staff and student-athletes over these last few months has been incredible. We appreciate the Jayhawk family and your commitment to our campus and community. We know that the Kansas Jayhawks will endure this adversity and emerge stronger and better moving forward.
If you are not a member of the Williams Education Fund and are interesting in supporting our student-athletes, please contact our staff today (855.GIVE.WEF or firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you for your continued support of Kansas Athletics. We need your help to ensure we are able to provide educational opportunities for our almost 500 student-athletes.
Stay Healthy and Rock Chalk!