First-year University of Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik entered her post in September with a lot to sort out.
The former longtime Wisconsin administrator had a sizable budget deficit to untangle and construction of a basketball arena to oversee. Gawlik, an expert in Title IX implementation, was set to smooth things out in Moscow after a turbulent past year, in which former AD Rob Spear was fired and the school’s reputation damaged by the mishandling of allegations of sexual assault by student-athletes.
Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gawlik is busier than she could’ve foreseen.
“I’ve always been a multitasker. I like problem-solving, but I wish none of us would have this type of problem,” she told the Tribune on Friday by phone from her former home in Middleton, Wis., where she’s been packing up belongings since mid-March. “It’s all challenging. And I’m a people-person, so I prefer to talk to people in-person.”
It’s been a month defined by dozens of teleconferences per week, and uncertainty.
At UI, administrators are searching for effective methods to mitigate financial losses.
According to a Vandal athletics financial report — first outlined by Pullmanradio.com — the budget deficit surpassed $1.5 million during the 2019 fiscal year, up about half a million from the previous year. UI’s football program experienced a loss of about 50 percent — or $700,000 — in ticket revenue and contributions, stemming from its move from the top-level D-I Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision at the beginning of the 2018 season.
But like most schools, football still is the primary money-maker. Ticket sales and game guarantees for football last fiscal year totaled about $1.6 million, compared to approximately $200,000 for all other sports combined.
Accounting for only ticket sales and a guaranteed-money game at Washington State, the 2020 football season — the normal progression of which grows more tenuous by the week — is expected to again bring in more than $1 million.
“Those are big ones,” said Gawlik, noting that the lack of travel expenses would help somewhat. “Really, (football) seems to be moving closer to being delayed. A lot of it is: How do you best start it back up? You can’t flip a switch. In Idaho, we might be able to start, but the East Coast and California, it doesn’t mean they can. A day has to be determined when practice can start, and it has to be determined keeping in mind how much time they need for preparation.
“I know this is making (football coaches) anxious, because they like their set schedules, and certain routines.”
Idaho also was scheduled to play host to the opening two rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in March in Spokane. The “hosting honorarium” would have paid out about $200,000.
If winter and spring sports had gone on, the NCAA would have spread about $600 million across 353 D-I member institutions, with the first distribution coming in April. The vast majority of that sum comes from March Madness.
That figure, now to be distributed in June, has dropped to $225 million.
“(The hosting honorarium) isn’t just a bump. Schools count on it,” Gawlik said. “... Everyone’s affected by March Madness. The money to the conferences, it’s yearly. It depends on how many teams you get in. They parlay it out, so to speak.”
As to what UI missed out on there, Gawlik didn’t have an exact number, but to use a Big Sky reference: Montana AD Kent Haslam estimated the Grizzlies will receive about $225,000, rather than the anticipated $550,000, according to the Missoulian.
To add on: It’s also unclear how the NCAA — which granted spring athletes another year of eligibility — will handle the fact there will be more scholarship-level players than there are scholarships available. The economic impact of the virus might also lessen contributions to the department and student enrollment. Big Sky athletic departments rely heavily on subsidies from the school to function.
On the other hand, the NCAA’s cancellation of spring sports means no more spring sports expenditures, including travel and home competitions for track and field, tennis and golf teams. UI’s spring programs spent approximately $350,000 on travel last year. Coaches also have had recruiting trips put on hold — in all, UI spent almost a quarter of a million dollars on recruiting travel in FY 2019.
Gawlik said no UI sports teams are in danger of being cut at this time. Two D-I schools already have cut programs: Cincinnati axed men’s soccer and Old Dominion got rid of wrestling. Some schools — including WSU — have seen their coaches and administrators take slight pay cuts and forego bonuses. It’s a possibility, Gawlik said, but not much is set in stone regarding long-term plans to alleviate financial losses. That’s what she and first-year president Scott Green, among others across the nation, are in the process of working out.
“We’re trying to be forward-thinking, but not getting too far out in front of it,” Gawlik said. The COVID-19 situation remains fluid. “There’s no real answers on anything right now; we’re just trying to figure out what’s best for everyone’s health.”
Gawlik said she’s been taking cues from Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, who walks through scenarios, “particularly in regards to contact sports,” she said.
“Some people might have to get tested before you start competition,” she noted.
Gawlik and other Big Sky athletic directors also have kept in close contact with league commissioner Tom Wistrcill. In the hopes of being more frugal, they have broached making amendments to upcoming sports season schedules and — potentially — conference tournaments.
“We’ve been looking at maybe altering some of the ways we spend money,” she said. Details haven’t been specified yet.
The NCAA announced Thursday that all D-I coaches will have more time to communicate with teams. They may require up to eight hours per week for “virtual nonphysical countable activities like film review, chalk talks and team meetings,” according to the NCAA website.
Some Vandal athletes remain near school, which is holding classes online, and continuing its construction on the new Idaho Arena. UI’s dormitories and dining halls are open, and Gawlik said she’d heard of UI’s basketball and soccer teams holding virtual end-of-the-year banquets — just to retain some shred of normalcy.
“I’d say it’s running about as best it can,” Gawlik said. “It’s because I have some great people working with me.”
Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 627-3209.