The University of Arizona’s athletic department is struggling financially ahead of its move from the Pac-12 to the Big 12.
University President Robert C. Robbins acknowledged during a Nov. 2 meeting with the board of regents that athletics was not producing the revenue that was expected following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are a few units across the university that are struggling, not the least of which is athletics,” Robbins said. “We had assumed when we used days cash on hand to support athletics, that there would be an increase in revenue, and it’s just not turned out to be the case.
“Unfortunately, I think with the situation we find ourselves in with the Pac-12, that situation may not get better before it gets worse.”
Arizona is one of four schools — along with Arizona State, Utah and Colorado — that are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 next year. It’s part of a larger disintegration of the Pac-12, which is also losing UCLA, USC, Washington and Oregon to the Big 10 and Stanford and Cal to the ACC.
Arizona’s athletic department was given a $55 million loan during the height of the pandemic that hasn’t been paid back “fast enough,” according to the Arizona Daily Star.
The department’s struggles are part of a wider budget shortfall for the entire university.
Arizona has 20 athletic teams and a budget that exceeds $100 million. Robbins has indicated that cutting sports is an option.
“Everything is on the table in terms of dealing with athletics,” Robbins said, according to the Daily Star. “This is an issue that’s going to require a lot of tough decisions.”
An Arizona spokesman said athletic director Dave Heeke couldn’t comment Friday because of schedule conflicts. The university released a statement about the broad financial situation, which includes athletics.
“The University of Arizona’s strategic investments have led to some of the best incoming classes and record-breaking research,” the statement read. “As the strategic plan investments come to a close, the University will address current budget challenges by reducing expenses and finding additional revenue streams.
“The university will address its current budget challenges and emerge stronger and better prepared for future growth.”