Tech’s finances stabilizing, counting on playing postponed games

There are at least two reasons why the ACC and its member schools will be highly motivated to make up all of the postponed basketball games before the end of the regular season.

As coaches, players and staff have tried to adhere to stringent COVID-19 protocols, the games have been the reward for those efforts. But, the league also is eager to ensure those games are made up – even as it likely will mean teams playing two weekday games in a given week – to ensure athletic departments’ financial viability.

In a board meeting of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association held Thursday via videoconference, athletic director Todd Stansbury offered another reminder of the role that football and men’s basketball play in generating revenue that keep athletic departments going, even as games are postponed, two women’s basketball teams have canceled their seasons (Duke and Virginia), and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in December that “I don’t think (playing) feels right to anybody.”

Stansbury told board members that the ACC was fortunate to have played enough football games in the fall to live up to its contractual obligations to ESPN, particularly for games played on the ACC Network. However, the number of postponed basketball games could lead to a reduced payout from ESPN, he added.

“We’re a little concerned there about how our inability to play all of our games and deliver all of our games to the ACC Network may end up affecting our distribution,” Stansbury said. “So that’s definitely something that’s on our radar screen as a potential risk.”

The newest budget update projected the Tech athletic department to receive $32.1 million in distributions from the ACC, most of it coming from ESPN. That accounts for 41% of the department’s $78.5 million in revenues that the department expects in this fiscal year. The ACC money is particularly crucial because, given the shortage in ticket sales, it’s a higher percentage than usual. In the 2019 fiscal year, for instance, ACC money accounted for 33% of Tech’s revenues.

However, the athletic department is anticipating a $4 million infusion (including a $1 million donation to the scholarship fund) as part of its new agreement with sports marketing company Legends, which will be the athletic department’s partner for multimedia rights and revenue generation starting in July. Stansbury has said that the agreement could generate more than $400 million over the life of the 11-year deal.

The “Support the Swarm” initiative, which is prevailing upon fans and alumni to convert money for ticket purchases that can’t be spent because of attendance restrictions into donations, has raised $2.2 million, an increase from $1.7 million in November.

The athletic department also received an additional $2.3 million from the institute, $1.5 million for COVID-19 support (PPE, testing, safety equipment and supplies, etc.) and $800,000 to compensate for lost ticket-sales revenues for basketball. In an effort to support faculty, staff and students and keep the campus community safe during the pandemic, the institute made the decision not to sell tickets to the general public, limiting attendance to students, faculty and staff and guests of the team and athletic department.

The department also projects saving $2.2 million from its furlough program, in which all employees making $33,476 or more are assigned furlough days and a corresponding reduction in pay.

Including other, smaller changes in revenues and spending, the department now projects a $1.8 million surplus for the year, which would reduce the $13.6 million deficit in the fund balance to $11.8 million.

School president Angel Cabrera advised at the meeting that the “economic pain” for the institute and affiliated organizations, including the athletic department, isn’t over, but “we are in as good a shape as we can be to withstand the remaining months inside of the tunnel.”

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