NOVAK: Outbreak disrupting more than just play

All of us miss going to local high school sporting events, traveling to college sporting events and watching more than our share of college and professional sports on television.

What we probably are not missing, or even thinking about, is the effects not having those events has on many levels. Things like athletic budgets at all levels. Things like how are the people who count on season jobs working at the South Bend Cubs or Notre Dame football games?

Some of that reality hit the news Monday morning as Western Michigan University athletic director Kathy Beauregard took part in a virtual townhall with other administrators at Western to announce budget reductions due to monies lost during the COVID19 pandemic.

According to Edward Montgomery, WMU president, the school has lost $45 million due to the coronavirus outbreak. He said that the budget cuts announced on Monday would tough every level of the university.

Beauregard said that the Broncos’ 2019-20 athletic budget was $31,138,209. She had to cut 20 percent from that budget for the upcoming year, which begins in July. That amounts to $6 million trimmed from athletics.

I can only imagine what that amount might be at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University or even at Notre Dame. Their athletic budgets are much bigger than Western Michigan’s, so you do the math.

The good news from Kalamazoo was that , at this point in time, all 16 varsity sports will be affected by the budget cuts, but no sports will be eliminated. That is particularly good news for sports that do not have the word ball in them. The so-called “Olympic sports” at some schools are the ones that usually taste the budget axe first. That is mainly because they do not generate the type of revenue that football, basketball and hockey have at most universities and colleges.

All sports are important, but when budget crunch time hits, it comes down to counting peanuts. That is just the reality of the business of college athletics.

One of the biggest reasons that Western, and other schools that are cutting budgets, is the loss of revenue from the NCAA postseason and television contracts that cannot be filled.

Western’s basketball program alone was scheduled to receive $3.2 million from the NCAA for participating in postseason tournaments, the bulk of it coming from the men’s basketball tournament.

As a sports writer and fan in general, it hurts me to see these types of things. All of us who love sports do not want to see these athletes being stripped of their time on the court, a field, on the ice or in a pool. They have worked their entire lives to get to a point where they were good enough to play college sports.

To have it taken away by something that is out of their control is heartbreaking. So is seeing schools like Western Michigan, which has put in a lot of time, effort and funding to create practice and game facilities for their athletes to compete on at the highest level. I feel bad for them too.

Hopefully, our hiatus from sports will come to an end sooner rather than later. Heck, we have a PGA tournament this weekend, as well as the return of NASCAR. We cannot attend any of these events in person as a yet, but getting to sit down and watch them is going to bring some joy to all of us.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at