Alvarez says he hopes to avoid cutting Badgers sports amid budget crunch

"I will try to get through this without eliminating sports," Alvarez said.

Wisconsin Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez is seen before a 2017 football game in Provo, Utah. Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

Since March, the University of Wisconsin athletic department has modeled various ways of addressing projections of cratering revenues for this school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez said one thing has never been discussed: cutting any of the department's 23 sports programs.

"And I hope it stays that way," he said Tuesday, Aug. 11, hours after the Big Ten Conference finalized the decision to postpone competition for fall sports.

UW hasn't deleted a sport from its program since the cuts of baseball, men's and women's gymnastics and men's and women's fencing in 1991 to address a budget deficit.

Staring at a loss of revenue that could exceed $100 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year if football can't be played, Alvarez said the belt-tightening for UW will be significant.


The Big Ten postponed the fall sports — at UW, that also includes volleyball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's cross country — instead of announcing a cancellation to allow for hopes to be able to play at least some part of a football season in the spring of 2021.

Even if those games are played and some TV revenue can be generated, it will only limit the severity of what Alvarez previously identified as a financial crisis for UW athletics.

He said the department will have to use a reserve fund, but UW officials have said there isn't enough available in it to cover the loss of a full year of revenue. The Badgers were expecting to have an operating budget around $140 million this year.

Some layoffs of UW employees are ahead, Alvarez said, because of the fall sports postponements.

"It'll be difficult," he said.

The athletic department already has instituted pay cuts through a Work-Share program for hundreds of employees. The 25 highest-earning athletics employees took a 15% cut through October.

At least 21 schools that field NCAA Division I programs have announced plans to eliminate some of their sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Mat Talk Online database. In July, Stanford dropped 11 sports, displacing more than 240 athletes.

"I will try to get through this without eliminating sports," Alvarez said.



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