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Athletics Update: Coronavirus could severely impact UL budget

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 25, 2020

UPDATE: In an open letter to Ragin' Cajun fans posted Monday on Twitter, UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said that as a result of the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic "we are anticipating and preparing for a major revenue shortfall" of, based on the typical average for a Sun Belt Conference school, $200,000 to $300,000. Maggard also said adding an extra season of eligibility for spring sports athletes whose seasons were cut short "could result in an additional expense" of $400,000 to $500,000.

The $400,000 to $500,000 in additional scholarship dollars is "just an estimate related to if all of the seniors in winter and spring sports come back,” incoming Georgia Southern athletic director Jared Benko told reporters in a conference call Tuesday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The original story  from earlier this month ...

The Sun Belt Conference's decision Thursday to suspend its spring sports schedule, and to cancel the remainder of its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, could cost the Ragin’ Cajuns a pretty penny.

Then again, it could save them some nickels and dimes.

What the true financial impact of the decisions will be is a matter that, at least for now, no one really knows for sure, UL athletic director Bryan Maggard suggested.

More: Maggard says Sun Belt suspending 'the correct decision' but 'disappointing'

“We met (Thursday) to talk about that, once we knew that the basketball tournaments were gonna be canceled, and knew that there could be (a chance), once we saw movement amongst other conferences, that spring competition was gonna be canceled,” Maggard said.

“We haven’t ‘ran all the numbers,’ per se, but certainly there could be a financial hit.

“Now, on the other side of that, there will be some savings incurred with regard to travel, food, per diem, things like that,” Maggard added. “So we don’t know what that final wash is going to look like. But, absolutely, there will be some loss as it relates to tickets.”

After beating Little Rock on Wednesday night at the Cajundome, the UL women’s basketball team had been scheduled to play a semifinal-round Sun Belt Tournament game against No. 1 seed Troy on Saturday at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

The UL baseball team had been scheduled to open Sun Belt play with a home weekend series against Coastal Carolina, and the nationally ranked Cajuns softball team had a home series against Appalachian State scheduled for the weekend.

Related: Cajuns hold on to advance to SBC semifinals

More: Georgia Southern comes from behind to end UL's season

UL still has not determined how it will handle ticket refunds and/or credits for upcoming home events that will not be played during the indefinite suspension, Maggard suggested Thursday night.

"At a later time,” he said then, “we’ll communicate with our fan base on how we can best handle that, particularly as it relates to tickets that have been pre-purchased for events that may get canceled.”

And that's a lot of tickets, as UL's baseball program is averaging nearly 5,000 in paid attendance for its games on M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park while its softball team, No. 1 in national RPI rankings, draws more than 1,300 per game at Lamson Park.

More: UL football team still practicing amid coronavirus crisis

More: Louisianans being monitored for coronavirus not showing symptoms

The decision by the Sun Belt to suspend spring sports — and the NCAA’s decision to cancel its basketball tournaments and championships for all sports for the remainder of the season — came in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic now sweeping across the country.