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University of Nevada anticipates large budget shortfalls without fall sports, reduces staff

Wolf Pack athletes will retain scholarships despite cancellations

By Carter Eckl ceckl@nevadaappeal.com
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong drops back to pass against Fresno State during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.
AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian

The upcoming fall college sports landscape started to dwindle this past week as conferences across the country opted out of having fall sports due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Monday, the Mountain West joined the Mid-American Conference as some of the first mid-major conferences to decide to call off fall sports.

Football, volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country were all called off with the decision.

Thursday, athletic director Doug Knuth addressed publicly what the decision meant for the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We understand the logic behind it – obviously support the decision – believe it was the right decision, but boy it’s hard,” Knuth said. “Not unlike what happened last spring.”

First and foremost, Wolf Pack student athletes will be able to keep their scholarships even without a sports season for the coming year.

“We did not want to cut scholarships. We did not want to reduce sports,” Knuth said. “That was not going to be on the table.”

Knuth also said canceling fall sports could cost the university $10 million in budget shortfalls.

“If we don’t play anything – football, basketball or any sports this entire year – you can look at our budget and see what our revenue numbers are in the past and subtract all of those numbers. You can guess what that looks like. It’s not going to be good,” said Knuth.

The Mountain West wasn’t the lone conference addressing questions about the possibility of moving fall sports to the spring either, which is still undetermined.

“We’re trying to figure out what the future holds,” Knuth said.

Nevada cutting staff after fall sports postponement

Friday evening, the University of Nevada announced it was going through staff reductions in wake of the decision to postpone all fall sports.

As a result, the athletic department announced it would have a reduction of “more than 20 non-coaching staff members.”

“This is one of the toughest days in Wolf Pack athletics history,” Knuth said. “Our department has operated with one of the leanest budgets in the country and we’ve been able to achieve success, in part, because of the passion and devotion of our staff.”

Leading into the decision and winter sports

In an interview released by the Mountain West Conference, commissioner Craig Thompson said the decision to call off fall sports didn’t change due to new medical information.

“There was really nothing other than the continued unknown. We heard about cardiac conditions and various studies,” said Thompson. “What’s really interesting to me is every Division I conference, and certainly the FBS conferences absolutely, have very active medical groups and those groups are uneven and unsure of their comparative notes to each other. Different studies show different things, and it’s amazing that intelligent people can reach different conclusions.”

As of the released interview, Thompson said the plan is still to start winter sports on time.

However, Thompson also alluded to the fact that just like fall sports, winter sports are the next on the chopping block if the spread of the pandemic isn’t slowed.

Thompson said he anticipates that decision to come in late September or early October as the season nears.