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WSU to present plan for balancing athletics operating budget by 2023

Fans pack Martin Stadium to watch a Cougar football game.
A packed Gesa Field at Martin Stadium in 2018 (Photo by WSU Photo Services)

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has a plan to balance the Department of Athletics operating budget by 2023, keeping it on track with overall deficit-reduction goals calling for building its financial reserves and then focusing on retiring long-term debt.

The plan will be presented during the WSU Board of Regents meeting, May 6 and 7.

If approved, approximately $35.6 million in external financing would be issued as general university bonds to help cover revenue losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bonds would be repaid with future Pac-12 media and bowl revenue distributions.

Additionally, savings of approximately $11 million, previously achieved through a refinancing of existing debt in fall 2020, would help cover potential pandemic-related losses in fiscal year 2022. And, WSU will restore the University commitment to pay the annual Pac-12 affiliation fees of $2.4 million starting in fiscal year 2023.

No new student fees are being proposed in the plan.

“We are all dealing with unprecedented challenges from this global pandemic,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz, praising the efforts of Athletic Director Pat Chun and the entire department in navigating through the numerous unexpected setbacks over the past year. “WSU’s affiliation with a top-level intercollegiate athletics conference like the Pac-12 brings us unrivaled visibility on a national scale that continues to benefit students, faculty, staff, alumni and other stakeholders throughout the University system.”

Detailed information about the proposed budget strategy can be found on the Board of Regents website.

State law requires public colleges and universities with intercollegiate athletics programs that experience operating deficits at the end of any fiscal year to develop deficit-reduction plans, which must be approved by their governing boards.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, as part of its cost-containment plan, the Department of Athletics implemented mandatory furloughs, mandatory salary reductions and voluntary salary reductions for all coaches and staff. All coaches waived bonuses for FY2021 as well.

“We appreciate the leadership of President Schulz and all of our campus partners as we navigate the complexities of our budget, specifically due to the pandemic,” said Chun. “Prior to the pandemic, we were on course to achieve our budget recovery plan of a balanced budget by FY2023. This new budget proposal puts us back on that path. We are fortunate that during the pandemic we have continued to set records in our Cougar Athletic Fund and in corporate sponsorships, emblematic with our $11 million deal to name Gesa Field. We look forward to the continuation of providing a transformational experience for our student-athletes and elevating Washington State.”

Media contact:

  • Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communications, 509-595-1708,

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