Wayne State center Ryan Kennedy gets ready to snap the ball.
Wayne State center Ryan Kennedy. Courtesy of the Wayne State Athletic Department.

Institutions across the country have been faced with a challenge: how COVID-19 affects athletics. 

The University of Akron and the University of Alabama in Huntsville have already cut athletic programs due to a negative financial impact from the pandemic.

Will smaller Nebraska colleges and universities have to do the same?

As of right now, no. Universities have already experienced budget cuts due to the spring sports season cancellation and now reduced capacity. No Nebraska schools have had to completely defund their athletic teams. 

In Fremont, Midland University’s biggest budget concern is tied to a shortened season.

“Those cuts now have to change our budget a little bit,” said Midland Athletic Director Dave Gillespie. “If some of those were away games, now we’re not going to the budget, because we had already budgeted to go to those away games in terms of transportation, hotel costs and food costs for our kids.”

Midland and the NAIA have yet to decide how many fans will attend events this fall, but the athletic department is not worried about ticket revenue. 

“We obviously don’t have any TV money we’re getting out of fees or any rights that we get out of games,” Gillespie said. “Ticket revenue isn’t that impactful to our budget, so that’s not going to be our biggest concern.”

The future of the pandemic is unpredictable, and plans are always subject to change.

“You’re always worried about losing money, but I’m not sure that there is unless a season is canceled,” Gillespie said. “I don’t know that there would be a huge financial impact on what’s happening right now, the way the season is set up right now.”

Concordia University in Seward has also saved money with the reduction of its regular-season schedules, as mandated by the NAIA and their conference, the Greater Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). According to Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications for the Bulldogs, Concordia has cut back the number of games for football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball. 

At Nebraska Wesleyan, every athletic team’s budget has to scale back, but the Prairie Wolves, “haven’t made any significant changes to sports, the schedules or facilities,” said NWU Sports Information Director Alex Linden. 

The Wayne State College athletic department has cut no budgets for any of its programs. Like other small institutions, most of Wayne State’s revenue comes from enrollment.

“A lot of institutions were having to cut budgets leading into that whole pandemic in the spring because it didn’t meet enrollment numbers, therefore we were already pretty strong as far as the financial piece of it,” said WSC athletic director Mike Powicki. “Of course athletics is an extension of the college and we’re in a pretty good position.”

In one way or another, all small colleges and universities have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic. They all believe the return of athletics and the games they play will help these institutions.