The coronavirus pandemic has lead to the loss of over 30 million jobs in the United States since April, according to the Wall Street Journal. The University of Utah Athletics Department staff can now be added to those affected by the pandemic.
In a statement issued Friday, the athletic department announced all employees will be furloughed. This includes every coach, trainer and administrator involved with Utah athletics. Some positions are also being eliminated all together.
“As I have previously shared, the financial challenges that we are facing at Utah has led us to make difficult — but necessary — decisions to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic,” said Athletic Director Mark Harlan. “These changes include furloughs of various lengths for every department employee — including me, our executive cabinet and our head and assistant coaches. In addition, in some select cases, we have also eliminated positions through reductions in force. We also have eliminated all performance bonuses until further notice.”
“We are prioritizing the areas of our athletics operations that directly support our student-athletes,” Harlan said. “The financial challenges that we are facing at Utah have led us to make difficult — but necessary — decisions to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic.”
Harlan made the decision to furlough workers in a radio interview with ESPN 700 and also mentioned how tough a decision it was to cut pay to university employees.
“That doesn’t mean there’s not been tremendous pain as we’ve gone through it like so many others and their businesses,” Harlan said in said radio interview.
The understanding of the word furlough is that it’s a temporary solution. While Harlan hasn’t said anything, one would imagine that most Utah staffers will return once sports resume, but it is no guarantee.
There were layoffs scattered through the program as well, and some positions were eliminated.
“We’ve collectively thought as a group if we could all do this together it would minimize. We’ve had to lay off some folks in terms of job eliminations and that’s been really hard,” Harlan said.
These cuts have been forced in a large part due to the cancellation of the Pac-12 football season, which, according to Harlan, could lead to a $50-60 million dollar deficit in the program’s $91 million budget.
When the Pac-12 canceled fall sports, there was an understanding that there would be casualties. The fact they came this soon, though, is a bit of a shock to the system and a reminder at what kind of economic damage a fall with no sports in Salt Lake City could have on the university and the local economy.