Financial fallout from a canceled football season would be significant for Florida State

Wayne McGahee III Tallahassee DemocratPublished 7:00 AM EDT Aug 2, 2020TALLAHASSEE — The coronavirus has alrea

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TALLAHASSEE — The coronavirus has already caused significant issues for the Florida State athletic department.

FSU announced earlier this month that it was reducing its budget by 20% with coaches taking pay cuts and the elimination of 25 full-time positions. 

Football coach Mike Norvell took a 25% pay cut, athletic director David Coburn a 20% pay cut, and basketball coaches Leonard Hamilton and Sue Semrau each took 15% pay cuts. 

But these budget cuts came before any clarification on whether or not the 2020 football season will be played.

On Wednesday, the ACC announced it was planning a 10-plus-one schedule model for its teams, meaning they would play 10 conference games and one non-conference. Whether these games actually happen depends on the decline of COVID-19 and college football being able to mitigate infections among its coaches and players.

In a recent interview with the Democrat, Coburn said those budget cuts would look "insignificant" to the cuts FSU will have to make if football isn't played this year.

What to do those numbers look like if the Seminoles aren't able to take the field this fall?

Football carries the weight at FSU

FSU had a total operating revenue of $152.8 million for the 2019 fiscal year, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Football accounted for 46.7% of the total revenue that year with $71.5 million. Approximately $43 million of the remaining revenue generated wasn't attributed to any one sport.

That leaves $38.3 million in revenue generated by the 17 other sports at FSU. When men's basketball is removed from the equation, it's $23.2 million for the 16 remaining sports. 

The $71.5 million generated by the football program isn't all related to football being played, but almost every source of revenue generation for the program will be affected.

Nearly $24 million of what the football program generated in 2019 came from ticket sales, concessions, conference distribution, and bowl game revenue. $17.3 million of that came from ticket sales.

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FSU played six home games in 2019 without including the Boise State game, which was moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee two days before the game due to Hurricane Dorian. Tickets to that game were sold for $20, which decreased the number.

This season, FSU was scheduled to play six home games and a neutral site game against West Virginia in Atlanta. The payout for that game was to be $4.25 million.

The total ticket revenue would have gone up this season with Florida and Clemson on the home schedule, plus the interest generated from having a first-year head coach in Norvell. But with the SEC announcing it will only play conference games on Thursday, there will be no matchup with the Gators and FSU's schedule is still unknown.

Florida State sent a letter to boosters and season ticket holders Thursday with details.

FSU stated that attendance for the home games this season will likely be limited and could be as low as 25% of the stadium's overall capacity. 

Season ticket holders may also not have their normal seats due to social distancing practices that will be implemented in the stadium

Doak Campbell Stadium's capacity is listed at 79,560. A reduced capacity to 25% would be 19,890 fans in the stadium. FSU has currently sold just over 20,000 season tickets.

FSU also stated that ticket and parking assignments for 2020 will roll over to 2021 regardless of how the ticketing changes for the 2020 season.

The letter that FSU released makes it clear that the athletic department was expecting the Gators to play the game. 

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said on Friday during an appearance on the Packer & Durham show on the ACC Network that he thinks each league school will find an opponent to play at home, or face a school at a site within the school’s home state.

In FSU’s case that would mean the Seminoles must play a game in Tallahassee or play at another school, such as UCF, South Florida, Florida International or Florida Atlantic.

“I think all of our schools are on track to have their one non-conference game,” Swofford said.

ACC schools are slated to begin football games Sept. 7-12 and play 10 league games plus a non-conference game over a 13-week schedule. Each team will have two open dates.

“We also understand that we need to be nimble,” Swofford said.

“There may be starts and backups, so to speak. we could lose certain weeks of the schedule. There could be certain teams that are unable to play for a week or two along the way. This schedule and the way it’s structured gives us flexibility to deal with those kinds of situations once we start the season. We know we’re going to have to be nimble.”

Other Revenue

FSU football received $15.9 million in revenue from media rights, which includes television, radio, internet, digital, and e-commerce rights. The football program also generated $3 million in revenue from royalties, sponsorships, and advertising.

Then there's the contributions that FSU receives from outside sources, such as the boosters. The football program used $20 million in contributions during the 2019 season for athletic facilities and other needs.

That number changes from year-to-year so it's difficult to evaluate. FSU football used $27.4 million in contributions during the 2018 fiscal year and $29.5 million in contributions in 2017. 

The financial impact of the coronavirus on individual families and the economy has also taken a toll on the financial contributions to the boosters. 

There's also $5.5 million in other operating revenue that didn't fit into any specific reporting category for FSU and was not specified. 

Add all of that together and FSU would likely be facing more than $50 million in lost revenue for the 2020 fiscal year just due to football season not being played. That was a third of the revenue generated for the entire athletic department in 2019. 

Reduced expenses

If college football isn't played this year, the football program would still have a hefty expense report.

The FSU football program had $47.4 million in operating expenses during the 2019 fiscal year. 

FSU paid out $2.6 million to visiting teams in 2019, though that number will go down significantly in 2020 if the season is played. FSU paid Louisiana-Monroe $1.65 to play in Tallahassee in 2019 and $425,000 for Alabama State. 

This year, FSU would pay Samford $450,000 for the Seminoles' home opener and $500,000 for in-state rival UF to come to Tallahassee. The other non-conference games are against WVU in Atlanta and Boise State in Idaho.

FSU paid $10.9 million to its football coaching staff in 2019, but that number will be reduced in 2020. FSU coach Mike Norvell's contract states that he will make $3.54 million this season, but he is taking a pay cut of 25%. That pay cut would bring his pay to $2.7 million.

The assistant coaches at FSU combine to make $5.2 million this year, which is slightly less than the $5.7 million FSU paid its assistant coaches in 2019. 

FSU is paying its coaching staff $7.9 million for the 2020 fiscal year, which is $3 million less than it paid the previous staff. The biggest difference being that Norvell would be making half of what former coach Willie Taggart made in 2019 with the pay cut.

FSU paid $2.4 million in travel expenses for the football program in 2019, but this year's number is unknown until the schedule is released. FSU also paid $2.7 million for game expenses.

The football program spent $1.5 million on recruiting in 2019, but FSU has not been able to recruit off-campus or bring recruits on campus for visits since the coronavirus shut down sports in March. 

With those expenses off the table, FSU would save more than $7.5 million in operating expenses for the 2020 fiscal year. 

FSU football did spent $10.9 million in unspecified operating expenses in 2020 so that number could go up significantly depending on the what those expenses were used for. 

Reach Wayne McGahee III at or follow him on Twitter @WayneMcGaheeIII

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