Budget Uncertainty: 2020 WKU Football budget explained

WKU Graduate quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome throws the ball during the Hilltoppers home opener on Sept. 19, 2020.

Nick Kieser

WKU Athletics’ revenue for football season looks different this year following changes to adapt to COVID-19.

According to the WKU intercollegiate athletics department’s financial data for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, the football program generated a department high $8.6 million in total revenue. The total operating revenue came in at $30.7 million while student fees amounted to $3.9 million.

Athletic Director Todd Stewart said there will be budget shortfalls this upcoming year. It’s not yet clear as to what those specific shortfalls are other than not having as many fans in the stands for football games and an opponent paying WKU more than $600,000 for a game this season.

This season the Hilltoppers were slated to play at Indiana University on Sept. 12, but the Big 10 announced that it was only playing conference games this season.

According to the contractual agreement, the Hoosiers were going to pay WKU $550,000, a payday not due to come at least for another season.

The contract stipulates three games between WKU and IU. The cross-state rivals had the other two games planned for Sept. 25, 2021, at WKU, and at IU on Sept. 17, 2022.

“I’m very encouraged by the dialogue we’ve had there, that’s definitely going in a good direction,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said in an Aug. 27 interview. “We’ve played them in the past and there’s a lot of good relationships there.”

In place of the IU game, WKU played at the University of Louisville on Sept. 12, losing 35-21.

According to Associate Director of Football Bryan Fyalkowski, in the agreement with Louisville, the Cardinals paid WKU $600,000 for the game, which is the highest dollar amount any opponent will pay the Hilltoppers this season.

Unlike the pay from Louisville or any other non-conference opponent WKU plays this season, the Hilltoppers got one of their biggest pay cuts of the 2019 season defeating Arkansas 45-19.

The win over the Razorbacks amounted to $1.5 million against a struggling SEC program that finished last season (2-10.)

The University of Tennessee Chattanooga postponed its season due to COVID-19 concerns. Originally WKU was to kickoff against UTC on Sept. 3, but will now play on Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. in Houchens-Smith Stadium.

“Instead of having a scrimmage at the end like we do in the spring, our guys will have a chance to compete against a quality FBS opponent,” UTC Head Coach Rusty Wright said in a press release.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, WKU will pay $350,000 to the Mocs’ lone game of the 2020 season.

UTC had 10 other games to play in before the Southern Conference announced the postponement of all fall sports on Aug. 13.

On Halloween, the Hilltoppers will travel to Brigham Young University for the seventh game of the campaign.

After the online mascot competition between Big Red and BYU’s Cosmo the Cougar, the two programs will meet between the lines of the gridiron.

The time of the game has yet to be announced; however, the payout for WKU has been agreed on. According to the contract, BYU will pay the Hilltoppers’ football program $475,000 to travel to Provo, Utah.

As of Sept. 28, BYU has a (2-0) record while WKU (0-2) is coming out of its early bye week of the season.

Fyalkowski said the WKU football program would be netting $750,000 in guaranteed games this season.

As for what the consequences will be for athletics, WKU will have decisions to make once more sports resume play.

“We are certainly running projections and have already run them in terms of what it might look like from a revenue standpoint due to crowds being in the 25% range,” Stewart said of the athletics budget.

As of Sept. 15, the NCAA had updated its guidelines for the 2020 basketball season with the regular season beginning Nov. 25.

Along with the men’s and women’s basketball teams returning, the Lady Topper volleyball program resumes with a match against Mercer University on Oct. 3 at noon.

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.