The price tag on the pandemic for the University of Hawaii athletic department could be a $9.3 million deficit for the current fiscal year, doubling its previous record shortfall.
That is on top of what could be as much as a $4.4 million deficit for fiscal 2020 that closed after a COVID-19-truncated spring season.
Both figures, which were delivered in a report at a UH Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, are unaudited and could fluctuate based on a number of factors, officials said. They are also pegged to a UH Budget Office projection of a 16% reduction in state general funds support, the report said.
In pre-COVID 2019, when the deficit was $2.9 million, athletics derived about $16 million from direct government and institutional support.
UH is projecting revenues of $32.9 million for FY 2021 and expenses of $42.2 million.
Athletics has not run in the black since 2011, when it turned a $486,461 surplus, forcing the university to make up the differences that were accrued in the years since. UH’s biggest fiscal-year deficit was $4.24 million in 2015.
Approximately 90% of UH’s Football Bowl Subdivision peers also run at significant deficits. This year Boise State, Colorado State and Nevada, three schools UH competes against in football in the Mountain West Conference, have projected deficits of $20 million, $16 million and $10 million.
The UH report said athletics has undertaken a series of expense reduction measures, including releasing an undisclosed number of casual hires, decreasing the amount of scholarships for student team managers and cutting the supplemental meal program for athletes during the pandemic.
The contract of one head coach, beach volleyball’s highly successful Jeff Hall, was not renewed last month as a cost-saving measure that combined the women’s indoor and beach programs under indoor coach Robyn Ah Mow. Athletics said it has frozen the hiring of full-time replacements or new positions.
UH said it has “other actions” under consideration, including “labor and benefits contingency scenarios.” Those scenarios include models of 5% to 20% reductions and would “be coordinated with other state and/or university actions,” the report said.
According to the report, the $9.3 million shortfall “assumes no women’s volleyball” and also reflects no seat premium revenues as well as the loss of $1.4 million in guarantees from football games that were to have been played at Arizona last week and Oregon later this month prior to the cancellation of the football season by the MWC.
The 2020 UH football schedule was supposed to have eight home games, including a rare visit by UCLA — which last visited in 1939 — and a marquee matchup against Boise State.
Rainbow Wahine volleyball had not released a schedule when the Big West announced the postponement of the fall season.
PANDEMIC PRICE TAG
(UH budgets pre and in COVID-19 period)
FY 2019* 2020 2021
Revenue $40.3 mil. $38.4 mil. $32.9 mil.
Expenses $43.2 mil. $42.8 mil $42.2 mil.
Net -$2.9 mil. -$4.4 mil. -$9.3 mil.
Notes: *Only FY 2019, prior to COVID-19, is audited. FY 2020 and FY 2021 projections subject to fluctuation.
Calculated on 16% reduction in state general funds support.
Source: Report to UH Regents.
UH’s fiscal-year budget deficits through the years
2019 -$2.9 million
2018 -$1.9 million
2017 -$1.7 million
2016 -$3.2 million
2015 -$4.3 million
2014 -$1.9 million
2013 -$3.3 million
2012 -$2.2 million
2010 -$1.5 million