IU incurs nearly $318K in pandemic-related costs

As collegiate sports seasons remain in limbo and discussions about financial uncertainties persist, much of the focus centers on revenues that might be lost.

Indiana, for one, could lose millions of dollars in ticket revenues, depending on how many fans are allowed in Memorial Stadium this fall. If games aren’t played, tens of millions in broadcast rights could be in jeopardy.

But on the other side of the balance sheet, there are additional costs for operating during a pandemic. Bringing athletes back to campus for voluntary summer workouts, IU had to test them, and provide them masks to wear. Facilities were disinfected. Employees were equipped to work from home.

As of Aug. 3, IU’s athletic department calculates it has spent an additional $317,761 on COVID-related expenses. What follows is a breakdown of those costs.

Testing/monitoring: $27,695

This number will increase exponentially as long as athletics are up and running on IU’s campus.

It costs the athletic department $100 for every polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test run through the university’s student health center. And the amount billed to athletics as of Aug. 3 does not appear to reflect all 480 of the tests administered by IU athletics as of the end of July.

Thousands of tests will be required during the season, especially for high-risk sports like football. The Big Ten will require those programs to be tested twice a week, including within three days of competition.

To get a rough estimate of the cost, there are 150 athletes, coaches, and staff currently listed on IU football’s roster. The Big Ten’s football schedule is currently set to play 10 games over, at minimum, 12 weeks. That’s at least 24 testing days.

Multiply 150 by 24, and that’s 3,600 tests that would potentially be administered within the football program — at a cost of $360,000. Basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and soccer are also in the “high risk” category. Lower risk sports are slated to test once a week.

“To be totally candid with you, haven’t really even added it up at this point,” IU athletic director Scott Dolson said of projected testing expenses. “What we’ve done in terms of any of our expenses related to COVID preparations, or PPE (personal protective equipment), or testing, everything, we are doing what we feel is the right thing to do.

“It’s such a fluid situation and I’m not exactly sure where the cost is on that.”

Whatever the totals end up being, testing will likely be a substantial piece of COVID-related expenses, if fall sports are played. And it highlights a big reason why it’s difficult for smaller schools with smaller budgets to keep football running.

Along with the release of its football schedule, the Big Ten announced it will “coordinate centralized testing through a third-party testing laboratory,” but it’s unclear what impact that would have on the price tag for member schools.

Housing: $45,737

IU’s campus was, for the most part, shut down for the summer. So when voluntary workouts resumed in mid-June, IU had to make sure its participants had a place to live.

Some athletes were already leasing off-campus apartments. The rest were put up in hotel rooms.

The latter added $37,658 in housing costs through July, with another $8,079 allotted for the “August Stayover” period.

IU is currently slated to reopen campus in the coming days and allow students to move back into dorms. But rooms are supposed to be single-occupancy, as much as possible, in an attempt to keep students isolated from each other.

PPE: $19,802

A cloth facemask is not as expensive as a PCR test, but the volume IU needed to buy did make a small dent.

IU ordered 6,000 cloth masks for student-athletes, coaches, and staff. That added to a stockpile of about 4,000 provided by other entities, namely Adidas, the school’s apparel sponsor.

The athletic department also purchased 8,000 disposable masks, just so no one was mask-less when the cloth variety was being washed.

The mask total: $3,686.

Not an exorbitant expense. Hand sanitizer, though, was more costly. IU athletics has spent an additional $7,911 on the hygiene product during the pandemic.

Cleaning costs: $67,655

Testing and PPE are important pillars in trying to keep athletes safe, but eliminating germs throughout IU’s facilities had to be an equal priority.

Per IU athletics’ restart plan, the custodial staff has been directed to use EPA List N disinfectants and sprays (designated for use against COVID-19) almost everywhere.

The plan prescribed Oxivir on doorknobs and handles, key card swipes, light switches, telephones, computers, treatment tables, sinks, and soap dispensers. ProKure V had to be sprayed on weight racks and dumbbells.

All of that, nightly.

Athletic performance coaches were also to make sure student-athletes were spraying down weight room equipment before and after use. Trainers and medical staff needed to do the same with their tables and equipment.

That’s a lot of disinfectant. Of this cost category, $37,969 was for the supplies alone. The rest is listed as increases to either equipment or facility costs.

Nutrition: $48,827

During voluntary workouts this summer, IU athletes were able to take “grab and go” meals from the Tobias Nutrition Center, which are just a little more complicated to produce.

But what really added to the cost was a gap between the end of voluntary workouts and the start of classes on Aug. 24, when athletes’ fall scholarships will kick in. IU didn’t want athletes to arrive for the summer, and make it through gateway COVID-19 testing, only to feel like they couldn’t afford to stay in Bloomington.

So the athletic department doled out per diems for the August gap period, bringing that added expense line to $35,260. The rest of IU’s nutrition costs were for the meals it served.

Computer equipment: $71,875

This was the most expensive budgetary cost during the pandemic.

The campus may have been closed, but IU athletics still had to operate. Laptops were purchased so staff could work from home — at a cost of $69,775 to the department.

It cost another $2,100 for soundbars, equipping staff for more than a few Zoom meetings.

Miscellaneous: $30,903

There were a few other unexpected expenses, including $10,523 for the purchase of 60 tables for cleaning and sanitary stations in IU’s athletic facilities.

Cancellation fees for previously booked travel and events totaled $9,009. Think, for example, of IU’s annual summer event at Huber’s Winery, which couldn’t happen this year.

Outside of the nearly $31,000 in “miscellaneous” expenses, there were another $5,268 in unexpected travel costs due to the pandemic, which came about when competition was abruptly halted in March. IU had to get its softball team back from a tournament in Florida, specifically.

That brings the overall total to $317,761.

Recovering the cost

At the end of the day, unexpected expenditures totaling nearly $318,000 aren’t a death blow to a Big Ten athletic department.

IU athletics posted revenues of $127.8 million in the 2019 fiscal year, its third year in a row above $100 million.

But these COVID-related expenses are just an added hit during an already precarious time. In June, an internal memo from IU’s athletics leadership estimated the department needed to shed 10 percent of its expected costs — about $11.9 million — to offset a projected revenue shortfall.

Dolson, former AD Fred Glass, IU football coach Tom Allen and IU men’s basketball coach Archie Miller donated 10 percent of their salaries back to the department. That provided more than $300,000 in savings. IU also put freezes on bonuses, salary increases, and hiring, as well as eliminating cell phone stipends, curtailing overtime, and holding off on non-essential maintenance and construction.

A rundown of IU athletic department salaries provided to The Herald-Times in August 2019 listed 285 employees. IU reported 26 fewer employees were working for the department on Aug. 3, 2020, than on that date in 2019.

Of those, 16 are full-time positions that will not be filled, according to an IU spokesperson.

5 comments

  1. In rare head to head yesterday at Noblesville Logan Duncomb physically trashed PUke bound Furst. LD 29 points, 13 RBs. T. Kaufman added 26 in tandem with Duncomb. Furst scored 8. Game ended 100 to 74.

  2. Enjoy the coloring leaves of Brown County and Southern Indiana. Just drawing out the decision to cancel or postpone til spring or future football 2020. The fall football season is not going to happen. Trying to have a fall football season would probably mean air flights turning around in mid flight to head back home and bus rides making U turns on the highway.

  3. Any spring season would be extremely abbreviated, with far fewer games and a reduced roster. In the review they’ve done, the expenses overwhelm revenues quickly, and that’s not the direction anyone wants to head toward. It’s why there’s no real support for it.

    The issue people need to consider is that longer range budgeting, as in the 21-22 school year, will very likely force some difficult choices on schools. The biggest will be reducing sports and not renewing scholarships, both full and partial. Giving / donations are already a concern, and there’s worry non-revs are going to be very vulnerable if a vaccine isn’t developed and the spread isn’t halted. From a college sports standpoint, this is much more precarious than people know.

  4. I agree and when spring gets here decisions may be made to just blank 2020 and kick start for 2021.
    This monster as in most man made things meaning the money, glorifying, and not keeping things in perspective which is often the inability to do because of the nature of mankind….the inability to bend the arrows back and gain perspective… this crisis may (or may not) force perspective, priorities, and serious decision making that bring things back down to earth…Ground Control to Major Tom.

    1. The reason I mention Spring is because IU and the other schools are being “strongly encouraged” to get behind a spring schedule, and it’s not a popular. You may hear some of the right things when it starts to get floated, but players and coaches don’t want it, and administrators see it as a further cash drain. Anyone with a near term NFL chance will opt out, which means you’ll see a reduced roster that will not feature some prominent players.

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