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Faculty Athletics Committee discusses COVID-19 precautions, revenue loss

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The Faculty Athletics Committee met on Thursday, Sept. 3rd over Zoom. They discussed the ways in which COVID-19 was affecting athletics and athletes themselves.

The Faculty Athletics Committee met Thursday to review the current issues facing UNC athletes and athletics staff: COVID-19 precautions, revenue loss and pay cuts.

COVID-19 precautions

The committee took time to address the COVID-19 precautions that are being taken by teams this fall season. 

“As it relates to protocol with away travel, we're testing everyone that's playing three times a week," Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said.

Cunningham said all conference schools have agreed on the same testing protocols, with nonconference schools also required to abide by these protocols.

"On Fridays, both teams are going to get tested at the venue they’re going to play at," Cunningham said in reference to the football team's third round of testing before playing. "Results are guaranteed to be back by 9 o’clock the next morning, and assuming we don’t have any positives, they can all participate.” 

Cunningham said this procedure will happen at 13 different locations throughout the season, and that there are new attestation forms that both teams are required to sign prior to gameplay, stating that they have followed the medical protocols previously agreed upon.

Faculty Athletics Representative Lissa Broome said the NCAA Division 1 fall championship has been moved to the spring semester, but the details are not yet settled. More details are expected to be announced on Sept. 16. Broome said the NCAA has also granted fall sports athletes an additional season of eligibility. 

"These student athletes, if returning for another year, can receive athletic aid, and it will be exempt from the financial aid limits for each sport," Broome said.

Additionally, Dwight Hollier, senior associate athletic director for college athlete health, well-being and program outreach, described the measures athletic departments have taken to better protect and support their athletes during these difficult times with regard to mental health.

“We have been in communication with our coaches," Hollier said. "We are taking extra efforts to reach out to student athletes and communicating with coaches about signs and symptoms to pay attention to and when to make a referral."

Revenue loss

The committee acknowledged the difficulties it will be facing this next fiscal year. 

“Without fans in the stands, it could be very significant this year, anywhere from mid-20s to 50 million dollar hits, depending on whether we play, whether we get television revenue and what basketball revenue looks like," Cunningham said. "It’s too early to really tell what that number is." 

Cunningham said the athletic department has maintained contact with the University's budget office. He said any debt accumulated this year will have to be paid back and that the department will have to be modified in the fiscal year 2022 and beyond.

With these cuts to athletics revenue, the department has to find new ways to stay afloat this coming year. 

“The decision we had to make for this fiscal year is that any staff member that makes over $200,000 will get a 20 percent reduction in their salary," Cunningham said. "Staff members that make $100,000 to $200,000 will get a 10 percent reduction in their salary. Any staff member that makes less than $100,000 annually will have three weeks of furlough."

Cunningham said the unpaid furlough requires that staff take their leave anytime between Oct. 1 and June 30. He said employees cannot use their vacation pay, but are able to file for unemployment and will maintain healthcare benefits. He said these cuts are predicted to save an estimated $3 million.

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