WSU athletic department to make small budget cuts in July; regionalized scheduling approach in line to save money during pandemic


File photo by Austin Shaw

Former athletic director Darron Boatright on January 24, 2020.

When the sports world started crumbling in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, Wichita State Director of Athletics Darron Boatright couldn’t have forseen all the crises would lie ahead.

Now, more than two months since the abrupt conclusion of sports, the virus is starting to take on a non-human host — athletic budgets.

Even though it’s still early, Boatright is already starting to make decisions based around the athletic department’s budget. That means a week-long pay cut for some WSU coaches this July.

“We were asked by the university, the president, that our highest nine paid employees to take a pay cut for a week,” Boatright said in an exclusive interview with The Sunflower on Friday. “Keep in mind, this is the first step, but these employees will take a pay cut at the start the budget cycle in July.”

These cuts are specifically to the athletic senior administration and coaches.

The payroll cut is just one measure to address the money flow issue in the wake of COVID-19. Another way to save costs for the department is through scheduling.

WSU and the University of Missouri announced earlier this week that they will play in men’s basketball next season. Even though Missouri’s name may pop off the page for being an SEC opponent, Boatright said he ultimately saw scheduling the Tigers as a way to cut down on traveling costs.

Boatright said team flights are one of the department’s big expenses.

“We’re looking at a more regionalized scheduling approach. Let’s try and save some money on travel,” he said. “We are looking across the board for budget cuts — we will be for the entire department for the whole year.

“I believe that’s why it was so easy to get Missouri on the schedule. I think they were looking to eliminate flights as well.”

Boatright did not mention any specific schools that WSU is pursuing matchups against.

During the pandemic, other schools around the country are being faced with possibly cutting a sport as a whole. The University of Cincinnati decided to cut its men’s soccer program, which saved $726,498. However, WSU fans and athletes don’t need to worry about a sport being cut because the university has the minimum sport requirement to be quailed for Division-I athletics.

“We compete in the minimum number of sports required, so that’s not something we are considering,” Boatright said.

Even though it is early in the process, Boatright said that as of right now, there are no plans in place that could help the department make money if fall sports are to be played without fans. He noted that with no fans, there’s no way for money to be generated during fall seasons.

“That’ll be some of the hits that we are preparing for,” Boatright said. “There’s a massive number of scenarios. Because you don’t just lose what we take in revenue, but you also lose concessions and apparel revenue. So that’ll be very difficult if that happens.

“We’ll just have to keep trying to find alternate revenue sources.”

The athletic department could also save money by adjusting how it dishes out summer school scholarships. Boatright said those scholarships will be distributed “a little bit different than in the past.”

“We’re looking at a wide range of things to try,” he said.

Boatright acknowledged that although unpleasent, cost-cutting is a reality of this unstable time.

“Right now, especially with the economy being so unpredictable, that’s why we are focusing in on cost cutting,” he said. “We’re just preparing, just in case something like that (no fans at events) happens. At least we are preparing for it if it does.”

As of right now, the NCAA has not ruled whether fall sports will be held at all, yet alone with fans. On Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said fall sports are likely a no-go if campuses don’t reopen their doors to students next semester. He said he expects those decisions to be made at some point next month.

“If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple,” Emmert said in his statement to ESPN.