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Coronavirus cancellations could leave Houston with hard financial decisions

Chris Pezman

Athletic director Chris Pezman (right) with football head coach Dana Holgorsen during the first game of the season in the 2019 season at Oklahoma. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston athletic director Chris Pezman told SportsTalk 790 AM on Tuesday afternoon that the University finds itself in a tough situation due to the NCAA’s decision to grant spring sport seniors an extra year of eligibility following the cancellation of spring and summer competitions.

“We are trying to figure out what we can afford to be really honest with you,” Pezman said. “We are concerned with our revenue streams. We took a pretty good hit with our NCAA distribution going down because the tournament wasn’t played.”

According to the NCAA, the Division I revenue distribution was scheduled to be $600 million originally, but after not holding the basketball “March Madness” tournaments, that distribution has fallen down to only $225 million, which is drastically impacting schools across the nation.

According to Pezman, the NCAA is not making it mandatory for schools to give seniors who choose to return next season a scholarship, and the University itself is in the process of trying to figure how much they can afford to give.

On 790 AM, Pezman said that Houston forecasted that it will cost them $500,000 if every spring sport senior returns, which is not likely as some athletes may choose to graduate and move on to another phase in their lives or even pursue a professional career.

“Right now projecting what I have to spend versus the revenues that may not be there is pretty significant,” Pezman said. “We’re going to end up having to make some hard decisions sooner than later.”

A big factor in making those hard decisions will be the football season, which is the athletic department’s biggest source of revenue followed by basketball, which has already impacted the school, and that is not counting next season if the coronavirus pandemic extends into the fall.

“The departments exist on the revenue that is generated by football and basketball,” Pezman said. “…looking at the fall and trying to forecast what our major revenue opportunities are with football and basketball… could affect our ability to provide for opportunities.”

Depending on the resources available, the University could have to choose what seniors that opt to return get scholarships.

Because of that, Pezman believes the football season will be played even if it means kicking off in the spring, which is something that has been thrown around as a possibility.

“The financial repercussions of not playing a football season are so significant there is going to be a way to do it and play it… responsibly,” Pezman said.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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