Pandemic has major impact on WIU Athletic Department budget

By RANDY LARSON, NEWS3 Guest Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) — The entire country has felt the financial struggles that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those affected have been college athletic departments. 

Many athletic directors have had to make significant changes in their budgets with major changes in revenue and expenses.

Western Illinois University Director of Athletics Danielle Surprenant said the delay of fall sports has had a major impact on their revenue.

“When you change your fall schedules, things that are impacted are guaranteed games and ticket sales,” Surprenant said. “Even as we switch from the fall sports moving to the spring, we’re still going to have some of those challenges, because you’re going to play less games, bye games aren’t as easy to get from a guaranteed side because departments are having some challenges. Our numbers in terms of fan attendance is going to have to be adjusted, and it goes beyond fall sports as well. We’ve seen our revenue distribution from the NCAA and the leagues also impacted by COVID-19 as well.”

Along with revenue losses, Surprenant said COVID-19 has brought unexpected expenses as well.

“There’s a lot of different things from equipment, in terms of how to better protect yourselves,” Surprenant said. “Student athlete equipment in some sports has been a necessity like testing, return to play testing, EKG testing and Echo testing to even get them back to play. We have had a lot of additional expenses due to COVID-19, and we will try to navigate and move forward to try and offset those.”

Although student athletes aren’t playing sports this fall, the department is still tasked with paying many other expenses. 

Surprenant says it’s extremely important for alumni and donors to help the department anyway they can.

“I think the biggest thing is explaining our story and continuing to tell them that we’re moving forward and here are some of the challenges we’ve faced with COVID-19,” Surprenant said. “Hopefully this is a temporary thing, but it will probably impact us for the next couple of years, so here’s the way you can contribute and this is what we are in need of right now. Right now, we need to offset some of these COVID-19 expenses that we’re incurring, but also make up for the revenues that we’ve lost.” 

With 17 sports set to resume play soon, it’s still unclear what the future holds, but WIU student athletes hope to be back competing, soon.

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