As the financial burden of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fall on so many businesses throughout Chapel Hill, the UNC athletics announcement on Thursday confirmed that the department is no exception to these hardships.
Beginning Oct. 1, all full-time members of the department will either see a reduction in salary or be furloughed, according to an open letter from Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham.
Coaches and staff members making $200,000 or more a year will have their salaries reduced by 20 percent. Those who make between $100,000 and $200,000 will see a 10 percent reduction in their salaries. Full-time staff members with a yearly salary of less than $100,000 will be furloughed for 15 days. These reductions will remain in effect until June 30, 2021.
"This was not an easy decision," Cunningham wrote in the statement. "Our coaches and staff work diligently each day to ensure that our student-athletes have the best experience possible, and their dedication makes Carolina a truly special place. This was also a necessary decision, because we must do everything we can to provide as many opportunities as possible for student-athletes in the future."
Cunningham said that the budget cuts needed to be implemented because the department expects to lose between $30 million and $52 million of its $110 million pre-pandemic projected revenue. This includes money lost from reduced ticket sales, sponsorship and television money, conference distributions, concession sales and a lack of fans in attendance at home events.
In addition to the salary reductions, Cunningham noted that the department has already cut its sports budget by 10 percent for the 2020-21 year, instituted a spending freeze, halted nonessential travel and left 17 open full-time positions unfilled.
At the end of July, the department sent an open letter to all football season ticket holders saying it would not distribute season tickets for the 2020 season. One of the options for those who had already purchased tickets was to donate the purchase to UNC's athletics department as a potentially tax-deductible gift to help address the year's financial challenges.
In a statement from Aug. 6, Cunningham said North Carolina only expected to lose $15 million in ticket revenue and $30 million overall if UNC was able to have a 30 percent fan capacity for football and 50 percent for men's basketball. There has been no official announcement about specific numbers for football or men's basketball seating capacities, other than the fact that Tar Heel fans are not allowed to attend the first two football games of the season, leaving last month's expectations up in the air.
"Unfortunately, these reductions will not cover our projected losses in revenue in 2020-21," Cunningham wrote in Thursday's statement. "As we move forward, I will continue to work with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Rams Club Executive Director John Montgomery and others to find additional ways to address our financial challenges and prepare for the future."