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UA cuts salaries for athletic staff

by Tom Murphy | August 22, 2020 at 2:36 a.m.
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek listens to Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak Wednesday, July 22, 2020, during his daily covid-19 briefing at the Center for Exercise on the campus of Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Most employees in the University of Arkansas athletic department will see their salaries reduced starting Sept. 1 in a belt-tightening move brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and its collateral issues, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has learned.

The salary reductions, topped by a 15% cut for Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek, are expected to result in savings of about $3 million.

The pay cuts will be in effect for the rest of the 2020-21 fiscal year, said UA senior associate athletic director Kevin Trainor, meaning they are scheduled to end on June 30, 2021.

"As part of our continued efforts to mitigate financial losses resulting from the pandemic and minimize its impact on the overall experience of our student-athletes, we have implemented salary reductions beginning on September 1 for the vast majority of administrators, coaches and staff members within our department," Yurachek said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "As it became evident that we would not be able to host a full capacity football stadium this fall, this difficult step became necessary.

"I am appreciative of the cooperation and understanding of our entire department as we join together to prioritize resources for the continued benefit of our 465 student-athletes. Our hope is that with an ability to stage fall sports seasons, coupled with salary reductions and other measures, as well as the loyal financial support of our fans, we will be able to meet these ongoing financial challenges."

The UA also will not pay incentives and bonuses earned by coaches during the fiscal year, but will instead defer those payments to a later date.

Yurachek had given a heads up to donors and season-ticket holders this week in an email in which he outlined ways the department would work to handle lost revenue.

He wrote, "Following an abbreviated spring athletics season and the realities of a fall season that will include a substantial reduction in stadium capacity and ticket revenues, Razorback Athletics faces significant financial challenges. Reducing the impact of those financial losses on the overall experience and success of our student-athletes is our top priority.

"We have already taken a number of steps to reduce the anticipated financial shortfall, including significantly reducing our operating budgets, limiting travel and reducing salaries."

In the email, Yurachek asked for "sustained financial support" to help weather the crisis and support the UA athletics.

Arkansas is not alone in the SEC and across the country in taking salary reduction measures. Ole Miss, Missouri and South Carolina already have announced similar moves.

Other universities across the country have cut sports, reduced staff or instituted furloughs. Yurachek said early on in the crisis he did not plan to slice any of the UA's 19 sports programs or cut staff or conduct furloughs.

According to the UA, senior athletics staff, head coaches, assistant coaches and staff members making more than $100,000 per year will have a 10% salary reduction the next 10 months.

The next tier -- nonclassified staff making between $50,000 and $99,999 -- will face a 7.5% reduction, followed by a reduction of 5% for nonclassified employees making between $30,000 and $49,999. Classified employees making more than $30,000 per year would see a 2.5% salary reduction.

The athletic department submitted a budget of $124 million for fiscal year 2020-21 this spring.

Yurachek's annual salary of $850,000 would yield a little more than $708,000 over the next 10 months, so the 15% cut would knock roughly $106,000 off his pay through next June.

First-year football Coach Sam Pittman's $3 million salary will be the hardest hit in the athletic department, as his pay will be reduced by $250,000.

Second year men's basketball Coach Eric Musselman's $2.5 million salary stands to be reduced by about $208,000.

The top five paid employees in the department -- adding defensive coordinator Barry Odom ($1.3 million) and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles ($1 million) into the mix with Pittman, Musselman and Yurachek -- will add about $756,000 to the savings for the department.

Yurachek said the football program generates more than $70 million in revenue for the athletic department, but that figure will be cut due to lost games and smaller capacities this fall if the season can be played.

Because Arkansas was scheduled to play a record seven home games this season, it stands to lose two home games on the new 10-game, SEC-only schedule. Additionally, seating capacity at 76,000-seat Reynolds Razorback Stadium is expected to be capped at 16,000 to 17,000 fans.

An unknown factor in the loss of revenue is how SEC television contracts will be affected by the changes in scheduling.

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