The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 – otherwise known as the Power 5 conferences – could stand to lose billions if the college football season is canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources told ESPN the Power 5 conference commissioners met on Sunday to discuss the possibility of not playing football in the fall. However, no decisions were ultimately made. Big Ten presidents are reportedly ready to nix college football and wanted to see whether other conferences were feeling the same way.
The financial toll on the schools could be devastating.
Patrick Rishe, the director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, told ESPN in May that schools stand to lose billions.
He estimated that the schools in the Power 5 conferences could lose more than $4 billion in total in football revenues and at least $1.2 billion due to lost ticket revenue.
“Anywhere from 75 up to almost 85% of all revenues to our departments are derived directly or indirectly from football,” Oregon State athletics director Scott Barnes told ESPN in May. “Indirectly, I mean sponsorship dollars, multimedia rights, and then you've got your gate, your donations and whatnot. The impact of not playing a season is devastating. It would rock the foundation of intercollegiate athletics the way we know it. Frankly, I'm not trying to solve for that because it would be such a devastating circumstance that we'd almost have to get a whiteboard out and start over.”
Sixty-five schools make up the Power 5 conferences. The University of Michigan and Rutgers University in the Big Ten Conference are two examples of schools that could lose more than $50 million this year.
The Athletic reported that Michigan sent a letter to season-ticket holders projecting a $61 million revenue loss and that could double if sports in total are canceled. The school was reportedly asking fans to consider converting their season tickets for the 2020 season into donations.
Rutgers could stand to lose up to $50 million, NJ.com reported in July.
The projections don’t include the effect it would have on local economies.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., Mayor Walt Maddox told reporters in June that the city would lose up to $2 billion if the University of Alabama’s football season is canceled.
“It would be economically catastrophic for Tuscaloosa if there is no football season,” Maddox said, according to CBS42. “Even a mitigated football season with restricted attendance and number of ball games would have dire economic consequences.”
Maddox said the city was losing $600,000 per week when the campus was closed due to the pandemic.
“It’s about a hotel owner being able to pay his or her employees. It’s about a restaurant being able to pay their small business loan. It’s about a family trying to make their mortgage payment. It’s more than just a game,” he said, according to WBRC-TV.
As of Monday, the seasons have not been canceled but are likely to be played without fans in the stands. The Mid-American Conference was the only Football Bowl Subdivision school so far to push fall sports to the spring.