The final report will show that the University of Wisconsin athletic department came out about even financially from the 2020-21 school year that was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That's because of a $20 million loan from central campus to balance the budget.
Athletics CFO Adam Barnes said the athletic department borrowed from the school, with repayment scheduled over six years. UW spokesperson John Lucas said there is no interest involved.
The loan will get added to the revenue column in athletic department filings made to the NCAA for the 2020-21 fiscal year, Barnes said, and will result in a surplus of around $68,000 showing in records.
UW showed pre-loan revenue of $76.4 million and expenses of $96.3 million last year for a net negative margin of $19.9 million, Barnes told the UW Athletic Board's Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee last week.
The revenue without the loan was down 38% compared to the 2019-20 figure and off 45% from what originally was budgeted for 2020-21.
Faced with declining revenue during the pandemic, some athletic departments have been recipients of federal economic relief routed through schools, Sportico reported in August. It doesn't appear that was the case at UW.
Lucas said the loan money came from campus operating reserves but couldn't provide a specific funding source.
"The university is a significantly large operation that there's some level of cash flow that would be able to accommodate a situation like that," he said.
UW originally projected a much larger athletics operating shortfall for 2020-21, when it lost all of its ticket revenue — originally slated to be more than $34 million. Last January, overall expenses were scheduled to outpace revenues by $47 million. The estimated deficit was reduced to $35 million by the end of March after UW received more money than expected from Big Ten TV rights and made deeper cuts to expenses.
The athletic department explored options of borrowing from outside sources when it became clear in 2020 that its major revenue streams were going to be disrupted. But those loan arrangements aren't allowed under state law, something UW officials have lobbied to change.
The shortfall ended up being less than $20 million because of a "shared sacrifice" by employees in the form of furloughs, pay reductions and a hiring freeze, Barnes said. Travel expenses were slashed, he said, impacting team, recruiting and business trips.
Finance committee chair John Schaefer, the chairman and CEO of Fleet Farm, said the loan only needing to be $20 million was a "huge win" for the athletic department in a challenging fiscal year.
"I want to commend the entire athletic department for doing all those little things that you have to do to maintain the student-athlete experience, maintaining the integrity of the university and doing it within some severe fiscal, monetary constraints," he said during the Sept. 23 meeting. "I don't think that can be said many places throughout the United States."
Not including money for capital projects, UW included nearly $140 million in expenses in the original 2020-21 budget that was approved by the Athletic Board weeks before the pandemic hit and the planning became obsolete.
The board last April signed off on a $129 million budget for 2021-22 that indicated some conservative estimates on the rebound of revenue streams but also optimism that most of its operations would be close to normal.