Fans disappointed by loss of fall sports as U of M leaders prepare for financial impact

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The Big Ten Conference announced Tuesday that they are postponing all fall sports. The decision will have a huge financial impact on the University of Minnesota and other schools in the conference.

Last season, Gopher football fans packed TCF Bank Stadium. A sold out crowd of 50,000 watched the team beat Penn State in November, with the team on a hot streak.

Long-time season ticket holder Dave Henry was there with his family.

“The momentum that we had going, it’s just too bad,” he said, reflecting on the news. “Last year we just had a breakout season and it was so fun for the fans and I’m sure so fun for the players.”

He and 48 fellow season ticket holders bring a "fanbulance," an ambulance decorated with Gopher memorabilia, to all of the games.

“Not to have a football season just seems crazy,” said Henry. “It just, it hasn’t sunken in yet.”

He hopes they’ll be able to take it to winter sports games, like basketball and wrestling. Although, Henry said it doesn’t seem likely those seasons will happen either.

There is still uncertainty over whether the fall sports will play in the spring.

Big Ten Conference cancels fall sports, will consider playing them in spring

“I feel awful for the players, the athletes and the coaches, not only football but volleyball and soccer, you know all sports,” said Henry. “It’s really a sad, it’s a sad deal.”

On Tuesday, University of Minnesota leaders said they’ve been preparing for this possibility, calculating the cost of losing fall sports back in the spring.

In May, Athletic Director Mark Coyle’s team told the Board of Regents the worst case scenario would mean no sporting events until after Dec. 31, 2020. It would mean a potential loss of $75 million, including from lost ticket sales and TV revenue.

“Our financial reality looks different now and it’s going to require all of us to be strategic,” Coyle said on Tuesday.

The University of Minnesota did not provide 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with an update on potential revenue loss following the announcement.

A spokesperson said in an e-mail, “At this time neither the University nor the athletics department can fully predict the amount of lost revenue that may be associated with today’s announcement. We will have to quickly analyze the full implications before we can understand the specific financial challenges we are facing.”

President Joan Gabel told KSTP it will have an impact on the University’s financial standing.

“It’s real there is a significant budget associated with University athletics, it’s a big part of our overall budget,” she said. “I mean I don’t think there’s any surprise with that.”

According to Gabel, this possibility was built into the budget approved in June.

“One of the tiers included the potential for this to happen,” she said. “That doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the challenges but it made the challenges foreseeable and part of our planning.”

Season ticket holders have a choice. They can convert their tickets to a charitable donation, get a refund or apply it to the next season.