The coronavirus pandemic has brought upon added financial strain for the University of Maryland athletic department — a trend seen in athletic departments throughout the country.
“If you ask me to sum it up, it’s just been significant and challenging,” Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 4. “I can’t even ever remember anything that has had this significant of a financial impact on the world of intercollegiate athletics.”
Even before the pandemic, Maryland’s athletic department went through some financial difficulties. However, COVID-19 has forced the school to continue evolving its thinking by developing strategies to increase revenue and decrease expenses.
In addition to increasing revenue, the athletic department remains focused on balancing its budget, paying down debt and building facilities, according to Evans.
“We’re working hard,” Evans said. “We’ve got to become more creative from a revenue perspective and understanding how we might be able to reduce some of our expenses and we’re going to do so.”
In addition to the added financial strain, the pandemic has also brought upon logistical challenges, which are now more prevalent than ever. Nineteen of Maryland’s 20 varsity sports programs are currently playing — far greater than the typical spring semester.
Only football is not playing this semester. The Terps played five of eight scheduled regular-season games during their abbreviated fall season.
“We have a certain number of facilities staff,” Evans said. “But those facilities staff members are based upon playing a certain number of sports in the fall and playing a certain number of sports in the winter/spring semester.”
With this challenge in mind, the entire athletic department has needed to be creative to ensure that each athletic event has the proper staff. Some athletic department staff members have taken on added responsibility working games or sports that they are not typically assigned. This has helped the athletic department mitigate some of these logistical challenges.
“We’ve had to ask other staff members to help us with these events,” Evans said. “That’s not typically their responsibility. There will be days in which on a Saturday we might have seven events going on.”
While ensuring each event has the proper staffing remains a top priority, the athletic schedule is fluid and ever-changing with postponements and cancellations that could arise quickly. Those cancellations could be due to Maryland or one of its opponents, as seen during the fall with the Terps’ football season.
During the fall, Maryland football could not play on four different occasions. Three were due to COVID-19 issues within the Terps’ program and another was due to COVID-19 issues in Michigan’s program.
However, this isn’t unique to football. So far this season, Maryland men’s basketball has had four games cancelled and one postponed due to COVID-19 issues within opponents’ programs. Maryland women’s basketball has also had two games canceled and two postponed so far this season.
“This is one [environment] in which everyone is going to have to step up and work together in order for us to pull this off,” Evans said. “I’m confident that our staff will do that.”
Despite the challenges brought upon by the pandemic, Maryland athletics remains committed to thinking creatively and finding solutions to minimize its negative impact on the department, according to Evans. That remains vital, but at the end of the day the health of the coaches and student athletes is the most important.
“The words that we have been utilizing here is we’ve got to be radically creative as we move forward,” Evans said. “So, challenges are in front of us, but we’ll navigate those challenges. We’re going to be fine at the University of Maryland because we have no other choice and that is what is expected of us.”
For more from Evans, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics