AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The University of Massachusetts on Thursday announced plans to reduce work hours as well as furlough staff members in its athletic department.
UMass said it will be reducing work hours and furlough 57 athletic department staffers as part of a university-wide workforce reduction announced earlier this week due to its financial position during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to the challenging economic climate for our university and athletics department through the remainder of fiscal year 2021, these difficult personnel decisions were unavoidable,” said director of athletics Ryan Bamford. “The staff furloughs and reductions today are part of a broad and deep plan our department has been forced to implement to overcome a multi-million-dollar revenue shortfall.”
The university’s FY 2021 budget already contains major cost-saving plans to help overcome a $5 million decrease in its budget. Many coaches and administrative staff on contract agreed earlier this summer to voluntary salary reductions ranging from 2 percent to 10 percent through June 2021.
Seven positions created through the university’s Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), as well as five other vacant positions, will go unfilled this fiscal year, UMass said. The school added, “The reduction plan also includes significant (12 percent-15 percent) cuts to department operations, including administrative and sport budget reductions using a shift to regional scheduling and reduced travel for many of UMass’ 21 teams. The department will also have increased reliance on fundraising accounts to support essential operating expenditures.”
UMass attributes the budget losses in its athletic department to several factors including university support (general operating funds), student fees, NCAA and conference distributions, ticket revenue, game guarantees, and other event-based revenue sources.
The university’s athletic department is also preparing for an additional $2-$3 million in potential revenue losses based on expected changes to 2020-21 competitive schedules, according to UMass.
“The uncertainty of COVID-19 has negatively impacted the collegiate athletics model and forced our department to readjust operations for this year to manage almost 20 percent in expected budget cuts,” added Bamford. “As we assess the best way to navigate the challenging fiscal realities in 2020-21, we are also supremely focused on the future of Massachusetts Athletics and building a department that will rise from this adversity and be stronger than ever before.”
Officials say they will continue to monitor the financial landscape of the university and the athletic department throughout the academic year in order to balance the department’s budget.