The University of Tennessee's athletic budget for the 2020-21 school year is based on the Volunteers having fans in the stands for the upcoming football season, but it still includes a $10.1 million cut in overall revenues.
Randy Boyd, UT's president, said reducing the number of fans further because of the coronavirus pandemic would have a "significant impact" on the budget.
"But we are financially prepared to withstand any significant problem," Boyd said Friday, the same day the UT Board of Trustees unanimously approved the athletic budget, along with the rest of the university's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Vols expect to collect and spend $129.5 million on athletics, down from the $139.6 million budgeted for the fiscal year that ends Tuesday.
Tennessee projects $29.8 million in revenue in ticket sales for athletic events in 2020-21, which is $7.1 million less than the $37 million taken in during 2019-20, or a drop of 19.4%. In mid-March, concerns about the pandemic led to the cancellation of what remained of the basketball postseason as well as spring sports — including baseball and softball — across college athletics nationwide.
John Compton, chairman of the UT Board of Trustees, said the university is in position to handle the decrease, and then some — if needed.
"If it were 30% or 40% or 50% lower, we would be able to handle it," Compton said.
Athletic director Phillip Fulmer has said Tennessee is planning on having full capacity available for home football games this season and will adjust as needed. The Vols, who won their final six games this past football season, including the Gator Bowl against Indiana, appeared to be in line for a boost in attendance this season after averaging 74,870 fans per home game in 2019.
The Vols' Neyland Stadium has a capacity of 102,455, the fifth-largest in college football, and they have seven home games scheduled for the 2020 season, including Southeastern Conference matchups against Florida (Sept. 26), Missouri (Oct. 3), Alabama (Oct. 24) and Kentucky (Nov. 7).
Their season opener is also at home on Sept. 5 against Charlotte, which is coached by Chattanooga native Will Healy, a former Boyd Buchanan quarterback and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga assistant who took over the 49ers before last season after three years leading Austin Peay. The Vols' other home games are against Southern Conference program Furman (Sept. 19) and Sun Belt Conference member Troy (Nov. 21).
Tennessee's athletic department plans to spend $10.5 million on travel in the upcoming year, which would be $1.49 million or 12.4% less than last year. The only area in which an increase in spending is planned is student aid with $17.2 million, which is an 8.1% increase.