By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart is preparing for fans in the stands this season but is anticipating a shift in fan behavior when the season kicks off as expected in September.
“We are preparing for games to be played as scheduled with our fans,” Barnhart said during a board of trustees athletics committee meeting via Zoom. “We do expect fan behavior and purchasing decisions to be affected regardless.”
The school is preparing for a $5.6 million decrease in revenue from ticket sales because of the current coronavirus pandemic. The athletics department has proposed a $148.5 million budget for the next fiscal year, a 17 percent decrease from last year. It includes a $1.48 million decrease in team travel and a $662,00 cut in staff and travel for recruiting.
“Our goal in building our budget for the upcoming fiscal year was to respond to the unique climate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic while avoiding adverse effects on the welfare of our student-athletes and reductions to our coaches and staff,” Barnhart said. “To do that will require sacrifice. We also must be ready to adjust in an ever-changing landscape.”
The men’s and women’s basketball teams and football teams will see a reduction in chartered flights to and from games. Trips within six hours will likely be chartered, while longer trips will be made through commercial flights and likely require adjustments in classroom attendance.
Barnhart said the budget crunch will “change how we operate” within the athletics department.
“We also know we live in a world that creates change every day,” Barnhart said. “We have got to be willing to adjust and be ready for those changes. You’re not going to see us speculating publicly on those changes. We’ve not done that previously. We will not do that going forward, but don’t take that to mean we are not planning. Our staff has done a remarkable job of planning, and they’re looking at every scenario possible.”
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.