Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin is concerned about schools losing millions of dollars if the football season is canceled due to the coronavirus.
"For right now, it's all manageable, but the question your mind goes to really quickly is if this lasts into another school year," he told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. "From a financial standpoint, if we're not playing football games in the fall, it will shake the foundation of college athletics. As everyone knows, football pays for the enterprise to go forward."
The coronavirus pandemic has already prompted a shutdown of several college events, including the NCAA hoops tournaments. Public health officials are warning that the need for social distancing could last several months to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Stricklin noted that football accounts for roughly 85% of the income the Gators generate from athletics.
"That would be a game-changer," he said of football potentially getting wiped out. "It's not just ticket revenue; it's the donations that go along with that. It's the sponsorship money that goes along with the idea that games are going to be played. And then there's the TV money. If there aren't games that are being broadcast, we probably aren't going to get TV money."
UCF athletic director Danny White offered a similar assessment, saying the absence of football would be financially "devastating."
"I don't know what would happen or how it would play out if we didn't play football this fall," White said.
His school could be hit even harder because they reside in a smaller conference and have to pay back a debt on the stadium.
"We've been in growth mode and are building things and trying to play catch-up," he said. "We have a small amount of capital reserves, but they aren't significant enough where they would be a solution if we can't make debt payments. We need to generate revenue from our football games to make the debt payments on our stadium."
Florida has its season opener scheduled for Sept. 5 against Eastern Washington, while UCF is slated to begin play one day earlier against North Carolina.