UTK to help cover Vols athletic budget shortfall during COVID-19, employees take pay cuts
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will assist the athletic department during a budget shortfall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UT Chancellor Donde Plowman indicated Thursday at a Board of Trustees meeting.
Plowman said UT-Knoxville will cover several annual costs that the university typically charges the athletic department, including academic services and parking fees. The university also will loan the athletic department any necessary money if assistance is unavailable from the SEC.
The athletic department is instituting a tiered salary-reduction plan for employees earning more than $50,000 annually effective Nov. 1 through the remainder of the fiscal year. The pay cuts, which were communicated to athletics staff in September, are expected to save up to $1.6 million over the eight-month period with reductions to annual compensation.
For the university to reduce a contract employee's pay, that employee must agree to the pay cut and sign an amendment to accept the reduction, UT spokesperson Tom Satkowiak said.
Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes and Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper already signed amendments accepting a pay cut, Satkowiak told Knox News. The cut will be taken from each's total compensation.
Vols baseball coach Tony Vitello told Knox News he plans to accept a pay reduction.
UT football coach Jeremy Pruitt's contribution to the plan was delaying a raise when he signed a contract extension in September. Pruitt received a $400,000 raise, which goes into effect in 2021, and a two-year extension. Athletic director Phillip Fulmer took a 15% pay cut, which was announced in August.
Tennessee's athletic department revenue dropped by $16.9 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to the first quarter of the last fiscal year, according to board meeting materials. The figure marked a 44% dip in year-over-year revenue. The department operated at a $2.4 million loss during the first quarter, which runs from July 1 through Sept 30.
Plowman indicated the athletic department currently has a $15.6 million gap in its budget for the fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
According to board meeting materials, UT-Knoxville expects a $40 million loss in revenue due to changes to the football season such as limited attendance and a shortened schedule.
"We have been working, both my team ... and the athletic department, and we have plans in place for alleviating $25.6 million of that through a number of things," Plowman said.
The expected losses are based on the belief all 10 football games will be played, which Plowman is confident they will. The board agenda did not include the potential impact on UT basketball in 2021.
Plowman said there is potential for financing from the SEC. If assistance is not available, UT-Knoxville will loan the athletics department the needed money, she said.
The athletic department's pay reductions do not affect the first $50,000 of any employee's compensation. Compensation from $50,000 to $150,000 will be reduced by 5% and compensation exceeding $150,000 will be reduced by 10%.
The athletic department is implementing other cost-cutting strategies. The plans include, but are not limited to, a hiring freeze on vacant positions, emergency-only deferred maintenance on facilities, a transition to mobile ticketing and a focus on regional team travel.
News Sentinel reporter Monica Kast contributed to this report.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.