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Big 12 schools face devastating financial consequences if no football. What will they do?

Big 12 schools might cut sports teams to survive, some experts think.
Credit: Dallas Business Journal

Iowa State University is doing everything it can to play sports this fall.

Jamie Pollard, the school's director of athletics, laid out the grim numbers facing the university in an open letter to Cyclone fans Monday.

The athletics budget does not include state or university funding, he said. That means if the university can't generate ticket sales or TV revenue because fall sports are cancelled, the athletics department would incur about $40 million in unfunded expenses in the next six months.

The other nine schools in the Big 12 Conference, which is based in Irving, are currently facing the same problem as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, particularly in southern states. It's uncertain whether sports will occur this fall or, if they do, what form they'll take. 

Smaller conferences, including the Ivy League, Patriot League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, already cancelled fall sports.

The Big Ten Conference and Pac-12 Conference said fall games will take place only between other conference members. The thinking is fellow conference programs will be held to the same best practices standards, whereas smaller, non-conference opponents might not have the financial means to do so. 

The Big 12 has yet to make a decision on what form fall sports will take this year. The conference did not respond to a request for comment for this story. 

Earlier this week, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told media it's "too early" to make those decisions. 

The biggest cash generator for college athletics across the country, including the Big 12, is football. If football is cancelled, schools will have to start making tough decisions that could include cutting programs to slash expenses. Some schools have already petitioned the NCAA for relief from the 16-program requirement.

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