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Virginia Athletics announces departmental staffing changes to combat financial issues stemming from pandemic

The department has faced large budget shortfalls due to attendance restrictions and shortened seasons

<p>John Paul Jones Arena is one of the many facilities that have seen massive reductions in crowds due to social distancing guidelines — leading to slim to none ticket sales.&nbsp;</p>

John Paul Jones Arena is one of the many facilities that have seen massive reductions in crowds due to social distancing guidelines — leading to slim to none ticket sales. 

Virginia Athletics announced further measures to address its financial struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic Friday, reducing the number of staff and leaving open positions unfilled across the department. These struggles are in part due to a lack of ticket sales because of attendance restrictions, shortened seasons and increased expenditures on COVID-19 testing and sanitization protocols. 

“These are incredibly painful decisions but they are, unfortunately, a necessary part of an overall strategy to address the financial challenges we face,” Athletics Director Carla Williams said. 

Virginia Athletics joins a number of high-level Division I programs with these measures, including Michigan and Texas, who laid off dozens of employees in September. The Wolverines’ program laid off 21 employees, while the Longhorns’ athletic department laid off 35 staff members and eliminated 35 vacant positions. 

The layoffs in Virginia’s athletics program come over eight months after more than 70 coaches and staff took voluntary pay reductions ranging from five to ten percent. The group taking a salary cut included all 20 head coaches and Williams herself. However, while the pay reductions lasted from mid-April 2020 through the end of December 2020, it is unclear whether or not they were extended to 2021. 

However, the impacts of COVID-19 are certainly not limited to individual athletics programs. This past week, the NCAA announced that it lost $600 million in revenue in the 2020 fiscal year, over $500 million of which was due to the cancellation of “March Madness,” the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. 

Due to the fall in revenue, the NCAA was able to distribute just $246 million across 357 Division I programs and 32 conferences as opposed to $611 million in 2019. Nonetheless, the NCAA has already outlined plans for March Madness this year, which will take place across six venues in the state of Indiana between March 18 and April 5. 

Regardless of the financial state of the University and athletics department, Williams remains confident that Virginia Athletics will be able to provide a top-tier academic and athletic experience for its student-athletes. 

“We have a very dedicated staff and the evidence of that dedication and shared sacrifice has been at the forefront during this pandemic,” Williams said. “Despite these challenges, the priority remains delivering championship opportunities for our coaches and student-athletes.”

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