Like most businesses across the country – and the globe – the Big 12 Conference is feeling the monetary effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had an hour-long teleconference with the media Thursday, and the first topic – and most topics – had to do with the revenue hit the league has taken during the pandemic.
The Big 12 was two games into its men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, when it joined every other Power 5 conference in the country in canceling the remaining games. And after the NCAA canceled the rest of the national tournaments this academic year, the Big 12 followed suit by canceling the remaining sports seasons – in all, calling off 10 conference championships over the winter and spring seasons.
“The canceled basketball championship games in Kansas City, it looks like it’ll cost us about $6.6 million,” Bowlsby said. “The NCAA Board of Governors just took action to distribute $225 million compared to $600 million, so we would normally get about $24 million from that. And instead, I think that distribution is going to be around $10 million. So we’re going to take some hits there.”
Those were dollar figures he had more of a grasp on right now.
He wasn’t sure yet on the revenue being lost from television distribution sponsorship fulfillments from both the basketball tournaments and other conference championships scheduled for the spring.
However, he pointed to the success of the 2019 football season – getting Oklahoma into the College Football Playoff and Baylor being a New Year’s Six team – as helping take the brunt of loss revenue.
Bowlsby also added downsizing conference operations during the pandemic, as well as “budget variance” for hosting some conference championships, as money that will soften the blow.
“I think we will be able to make our members whole on this year’s distribution, but you know, how much we spread the pain and how long the pain last is another matter all together,” Bowlsby said. “We have some unknowns in our budget that remain, and will probably remain for a while, but I expect that we will be able to make our members whole on what we forecast as this year’s distribution.”
It is the uncertainty beyond the cancellation of the rest of the 2019-20 academic year that Bowlsby tried to address that drew intrigue.
While the first football game scheduled to be played by a Big 12 Conference team is roughly five months away – when Oklahoma State hosts Oregon State on the first Thursday in September – the reality of the pandemic lingering into the fall is a concern for the conference commissioner.
As of now, he said there have been no contingency plans put in place if sports were not to resume in the fall, but the prospect of no college football is a concept that Bowlsby sees having greater ramifications than the current sports stoppage.
“It’s a whole new ballgame if we find ourselves not playing football, because it affects everything we do,” Bowlsby said. “It affects the largest portion of our TV contract and it affects the the largest source of campus revenue, which is live gate.
“Anything that I say regarding finances has to be with the assumption that we’re going to be back to playing football in the fall. And if that doesn’t happen, then we are the underpinning of what we’ve known as normal goes away and we’ll have major changes to make.”
Bowlsby was posed with a question about a worst-case scenario.
If football were to face the same outcome as the spring sports season, what might that mean for scholarships for sports programs that rely on the football revenue?
“There there could be a very wide range of things,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t want to get into forecasting what those could be. But if the money goes away, it certainly necessitates difficult decisions.”