The ax falls: Utah slashes its athletics budget by $8 million, Kyle Whittingham and Larry Krystkowiak take pay cuts

Like so many of its Power Five and college athletics brethren, the University of Utah athletic department is readying to experience some financial belt tightening in the new fiscal year.

On a conference call with beat reporters Friday morning, Utes athletic director Mark Harlan said his athletic department budget for fiscal 2021, which began on July 1, has been slashed by $8 million.

That decision, according to Harlan, was made last week as the COVID-19 pandemic was threatening to alter, potentially even cancel, the 2020 college football season. Late Friday afternoon, the Pac-12 announced it was canceling non-conference games in all fall sports. For Utah, that means the elimination of home football games against BYU on Sept. 3 and Montana State on Sept. 12.

“We have done some considerable operational cutbacks to the organization,” Harlan said. “I’m real proud of our department heads and also our head coaches for really digging deep and looking at this year with different lenses based on what we’re all up against.”

Furthermore, Harlan indicated that the “top earners” in the athletic department have agreed to salary cuts. Harlan stopped short of mentioning names, but did confirm that himself, football coach Kyle Whittingham and men’s basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak are among those opting to give money back.

Per the terms of his 8-year, $25 million contract extension, agreed to in April 2015, Krystkowiak is guaranteed approximately $3.34 million for 2020-21. Whittingham, who in 2019 agreed to a 5-year, $22 million extension through 2023, will make north of $4 million in 2020.

Harlan was careful to point out that his operational budget, including the $8 million cut, is based upon six football home games with what he called “limited fans” at 45,807-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium. Crowd-size modeling at Rice-Eccles is still being discussed internally, but the increasingly slim chances of playing six home games died with the Pac-12′s Friday announcement.

On Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten announced it would scrap non-conference games entirely, opting for a conference-only schedule. The Pac-12 following suit was anticipated.

“We know things could maybe have to go deeper based on the upcoming situation with football and other sports,” Harlan said. “As we go into this, we’ve made those kinds of cuts. What we’ve done is make sure that these cuts don’t get in the way of the academic success of our student-athletes, don’t get in the way of the competitive success of our student-athletes, and it was fair and reasonable in the way we approached that.”

Based on the most-recently available financial data pertaining to Harlan’s athletic department, a cut of at least $8 million is not nothing.

For fiscal 2019, which ran from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 and included six home games during the 2018 football season, Utah athletics reported expenses of $96,000,514. Chopping $8 million off that number would represent an 8.3% decrease in operating revenue. Fiscal 2020 data is not expected to be available until January.

In ticket sales alone, one Utah home game equates to seven figures. During that 2018 football season, Utah pulled in $16.16 million in ticket sales across six games, an average of $2.69 million per game.

For what it’s worth, Utah athletics has finished in the black in each fiscal year dating back to at least 2014, but has done so with the help of subsidies, specifically student fees and university support of varying amounts.

Pac-12 gave out $32.2 million per school in 2018-19

The Pac-12 on Friday afternoon released data for its 2018-19 financial year, reporting $530 million in total revenue and $387 million in distribution. Revenues were up 7% over the previous year, while distribution was up 9%.

On average, Pac-12 schools received $32.2 million, which lags behind other Power Five members. According to to a USA Today report published Friday, the Pac-12 ranked fourth among the Power Five in distribution per school, ahead of the ACC ($31M), but behind the Big Ten ($55.6M), SEC ($45.3) and Big 12 ($40M).