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FSU working to control increased athletic department deficit

Florida State’s athletics department has battled a budget deficit throughout the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Those numbers will fluctuate in the coming months. Athletics director David Coburn delivered an update to the Board of Trustees on Friday morning and said, “We continue to grapple with the deficit, we continue to try to cut expenses.”

The Osceola has estimated the deficit has increased to $10 million due to lost football season ticket sales, tickets in the Champions Club in the 2020 season compared to expectations, reduced revenue due to canceled football games and marketing rights. There are also two variables difficult to pinpoint. Distributions from the ACC’s TV contract remain difficult to pinpoint. But a full NCAA Tournament, expected to be played in Indianapolis and surrounding cities, would be beneficial. Also, schools also have historically received “shares” from each game played in the NCAA men’s tournament, meaning schools that go deeper in the event would earn more money.

Coburn said administrators are doing what they can to tighten expenses, including furloughs.

 “We’ve required two weeks’ of furlough for the vast majority of the staff in athletics and we may have to require two more weeks of those in the higher salary ranges before the end of the fiscal year,” Coburn told the BOT.

He said administrators are “also looking at using some of the coaches’ restricted accounts to finance operating expenses this fiscal year on a one-time basis.” While Coburn did not discuss this to the BOT or in the recent FSU Athletics Association meeting, the boosters may need to sell some real estate holdings (in Tallahassee or elsewhere) to make up the deficit.

Some other notes from Friday’s BOT meeting:

Upcoming NIL legislation

Coburn said he will work with Florida’s Scott Stricklin and other Division I athletics directors around the state to form a working group to discuss name, image and likeness. FSU is looking into hiring a company to do education and create content for student-athletes, but that also depends on wording of future federal legislation. Florida’s NIL law goes into effect in Florida on July 1, 2021, but legislation in Washington, D.C., would supersede. Coburn also gave a few examples of what NIL would allow student-athletes to do.

“This change in policy would involve allowing student athletes to use their names, images and likenesses to promote their own businesses and be compensated for the promotion and advertising of other commercial products or services,” Coburn said. “They could receive compensation for autographs, compensation for teaching or coaching, private instruction in certain circumstances, raise money through crowdfunding for expenses not covered by institutional aid, and use the services of agents for name, image and likeness purposes. We anticipate under the proposed NCAA (ruling) that all these activities would have to be disclosed to an independent third-party record keeper.”

Anticipating spring sports

Coburn spoke with pride of a variety of spring sports that are underway. “I think we’ve got excellent shots at national championships in soccer, men’s track and field and beach volleyball. In addition, both the golf teams and tennis will be very good, particularly women’s tennis.”

Boosters’ membership rises

Michael Alford, the new CEO of Seminole Boosters, Inc., reported that more than 1,000 new boosters have been added since his arrival. When Alford arrived in Sept. 2020, the boosters had approximately 9,400 members. His goal is to reach 13,000 members.

“That’s a great accomplishment by our staff of going out and just telling our student-athletes’ stories and making sure that people understand that the annual fund goes to support the operational funds of the department,” Alford said. “But more importantly allows us to provide leadership and educational opportunities to those student-athletes. People are hearing the vision and they’re stepping up.”

Another bright spot: Alford said “people who are currently members are stepping up their contributions.”