EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The NCAA basketball tournament is annually one of the biggest revenue generators for colleges and universities around the nation.
With March Madness getting cancelled because of COVID-19, UTEP and New Mexico State’s athletic departments are now starting the process of readjusting and tightening their budgets for the next athletic year.
USA Today estimated that around $375 million in revenue was lost nationwide because of the cancellation of March Madness. Simply put, athletic departments everywhere rely on the money to help keep the lights on.
With that money now unavailable, schools like UTEP and New Mexico State that are already strapped for cash as it is at times are feeling the budget shortfall even more.
Every school in the NCAA is allotted a certain amount of revenue money from the tournament, based on what conference it’s in.
UTEP athletic director Jim Senter told KTSM earlier this week that the school had lost an estimated $800,000 to $850,000 in revenue money because of the cancellation of March Madness. New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia estimated the school would be out $500,000 in revenue because of the cancellation.
“That’s pretty significant,” Senter said. “We’ll have to figure out what ways we’ll have to tighten our belt and be efficient and effective without impairing the student-athlete experience as we move forward.”
Making the problem even more difficult, the NCAA announced last Monday it will grant spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility after COVID-19 forced their seasons to be cancelled. While it is first and foremost a positive turn of events for all the athletes involved, it means tough financial questions will have to be answered.
While scholarships for seniors won’t count against the limit schools are allowed in 2020-21, universities around the nation will have to come up with the money to pay for the scholarships, which will be harder to do without March Madness revenue.
Moccia said that it’s important to figure out how many senior athletes plan on using their extra year, so the athletic department knows exactly how to budget for the next athletic year.
“”In the next few days we’ll find out who has absolutely no intention of returning and that will at least give us a bit of a baseline to work with,” Moccia said. “Then, hopefully, we’ll start putting some real numbers to it.”
Senter told KTSM that there were around 20 UTEP spring sports seniors deciding whether or not to come back; NMSU has 39. Neither school had a definitive amount of athletes it expects to return just yet.