BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s football and other sports programs lost $81 million in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the school cannot use federal aid funds to reduce that deficit.
The athletics department has offset some of the losses through salary reductions and job cuts. It has received $23 million in relief money from the Southeastern Conference, and it has tapped reserve funds from profitable years to try to close the rest of the gap.
It also is counting on its private fundraising arm, the Tiger Athletic Foundation, to keep bringing in major donations. The foundation just hired a new leader, Matt Borman, who had led athletic fundraising at the University of Georgia.
The lost revenue came after parts or all of the seasons for many sports, including men’s basketball and baseball, were canceled in spring 2020 and attendance at football games was limited to 25% of Tiger Stadium’s 102,000-seat capacity.
That came after a banner year for a sports program that usually brings in among the highest revenue and profit totals in the country.
The national championship football team led by quarterback Joe Burrow took in $95 million in revenue in 2019-20 and earned a profit of $53.7 million.
But all that changed in March 2020 when LSU had to send students home, switch to online learning and curtail its athletics programs.
The academic side of the university suffered from losses in housing and food payments and greater expenses to combat COVID-19 when many students returned in the fall.
LSU officials say that total revenue losses for its main campus in Baton Rouge amounted to $126.4 million and the total for all campuses in the LSU system--including campuses in Shreveport, Eunice and other cities--reached $151.9 million.
COVID-related expenses hit $19.8 million for the main campus and $41.8 million for all of the campuses.
LSU and its students are receiving $147.4 million of federal aid from the various stimulus packages. The school can use $82.9 million to make up for lost revenues. The other $64.5 million is going directly to students for assistance.
LSU President Tom Galligan said that federal relief funds cannot be used for athletic losses.
“I don't think the money can be used for lost revenues or any athletic losses, but even if it could, we have met with the academic units, the administrative units, the auxiliary units and Residence Life,” he said. “Those are going to be covered first and if we cover all of those, we wouldn't have any money left from federal aid.”
The Southeastern Conference recently decided to provide each of its 14 schools with $23 million to help offset COVID-impacted finances.
In the University of Louisiana System, the projected shortfall in athletics for the current fiscal year is about $22.5 million.
Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the system, said the biggest expense for most of the schools is scholarships for student athletes. He said the programs will develop plans to recover the losses within their operations over the next two to three years.