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Financial questions fill college sports

There are so many questions about the future of college football right now because of the coronavirus, and many of them boil down to one big thing — money.

There not only are financial uncertainties for universities, conferences and TV networks, but also fans, many of whom already have spent a whole lot of money on season tickets, seat licenses, travel and other things.

Penn State’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 5, and that date may or may not hold, depending on how the nation handles the coronavirus pandemic. As long as the season can be played at some point — even as late as next spring — fans who have spent money on tickets and seat licenses will be able to see a return.

But what if there’s no season? That remains a possibility, and schools would have to determine what to do with all of the money –thousands of dollars paid by many Penn State fans — they’ve already received from fans for tickets and seat licenses.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour wasn’t asked specifically about what would happen to ticket holders if there were no season, but she did say the university is looking at “different scenarios” that could come up.

“The deadline for retaining your season tickets and making your payment and your required donation is in,” Barbour said Thursday. “I think our renewal rate was somewhere around 94 percent. We’re looking at scenarios and how we might respond to each and every one of those so that when we’re ready to go or we know more we’ll have a way to approach that.”

Barbour and other Penn State officials have a bevy of financial concerns to consider in the wake of the national crisis. Whether or not there will be a football season will play a huge role in all of those decisions.

“At almost every football playing collegiate institution, the football program drives the train from a revenue standpoint,” Barbour said.

That’s especially true at Penn State, where football generated $100.1 million in revenues last year.

Football coach James Franklin received a contract extension earlier this year that will pay him about $38 million over the next six years. There are now questions in college sports about whether high-paid coaches such as Franklin will have to give back some of the money they are owed because of the financial hardships to athletic departments.

A recent survey of FBS athletic directors showed that one third of them expect at least a 30 percent decrease in revenue over the next year, according to CBSSports. The survey showed 40 percent of ADs said they approve of high-earning coaches voluntarily cutting their salaries.

A lot of that perhaps can be avoided if the college football season does start on time.

“Depends entirely on when we can get back up and running,” one anonymous AD said in the survey, per the CBSSports story. “I think football has the opportunity to be a tremendous healer for our nation if we can get up and running by (this season).”

Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers is in contract negotiations with Penn State after leading the school to what would have been its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

Chambers, who has two years left on his current deal, seemingly had a good bit of leverage for a potential raise in the negotiations. But now his situation likely will be affected by how everything shakes out financially for Penn State and across the college sports landscape.

“Pat and his representatives, we were in that conversation before this happened,” Barbour said. “So we’ve continued that conversation, as well as a number of other conversations that we were in the middle of.

“Now, certainly some of the institutional-wide positions, and obviously again the unknown, do limit us in some of the things we’re going to do, but there’s business that needs to continue, as well.”

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