UCLA Reveals Pandemic-Induced Budget Alterations

    • While athletic departments nationwide have laid off staff and cut sports, UCLA has found a way to avoid these drastic measures.
    • "We're in preservation mode," said the UCLA athletic department's Chief Financial Officer.

Financial records are beginning to reveal how college sports budgets have buckled under the pandemic’s weight: The cancellation of the men’s tournament contributed to an almost $56 million shortfall, and reported overspending in Power 5 departments continued.

While athletic departments nationwide have laid off staff and cut sports, UCLA has found a way to avoid these drastic measures.

UCLA Athletics Chief Financial Officer Chris Iacoi explained during an NCAA Convention seminar how the program reworked its 2020-21 budget to accommodate pandemic losses — providing insight into how the uncertainties of 2020-21 translate to a Power 5 balance sheet.

Pandemic Budget Breakdown

In normal years, the department’s budget is about $125 million, Iacoi said. He laid out the program’s expected revenue for 2020-21:

  • Ticket revenue could disappear, from $14 million to zero.
  • Gifts and donations could go from about $14 million to around $6-7 million.
  • Sponsorship revenue will likely be cut in half, from $20 million to $10 million. 
  • Conference distributions, comprising mostly of shared media rights contract revenue, could drop from around $37 million to $25 million.

“We’re in preservation mode,” Iacoi said. To cut costs, the program has instituted forms of pay cuts like pausing bonuses, even without full-blown layoffs.

UCLA’s Previous Budget Conundrums

UCLA, in fact, suffered financial woes even before the pandemic began: The department reported an $18.9 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in 2019, according to records obtained by The Mercury News.

In addition, Under Armour recently terminated its contract with the department, and UCLA filed a lawsuit against the company. Just months later, the program inked a deal with Nike and Jordan Brand, likely assuring that UCLA athletics can expect sizable apparel income.