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Despite Oklahoma State athletics turning a profit in 2020, Mike Holder is bracing for shortfall this fiscal year

The Oklahoma State athletic department cleared a little more than $1.1 million in the 2020 fiscal year under the direction of Mike Holder. [AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin]
The Oklahoma State athletic department cleared a little more than $1.1 million in the 2020 fiscal year under the direction of Mike Holder. [AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin]

STILLWATER — Despite losing the Big 12 and NCAA basketball tournaments and some other spring events last year because of the pandemic, the Oklahoma State athletic department still reported a financial profit for the 2020 fiscal year, which concluded at the end of June.

OSU cleared a little more than $1.1 million for the fiscal year, though repeating that accomplishment in 2021 doesn’t appear possible.

For the 2020 fiscal year, OSU brought in revenues of $93,608,058 with total expenses of $92,501,090, resulting in a net profit of $1,107,968 according to the financial report OSU submitted to the NCAA, which was obtained by the USA Today Network and The Oklahoman.

“By the time COVID hit in full force in March, most of our revenue had been realized, either from the Big 12 Conference, from football season and basketball season other than the postseason tournaments themselves,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder told The Oklahoman. “Most of the hay was in the barn.”

Holder knows the challenge of balancing the athletic department budget for the 2021 fiscal year won’t be so easy. He estimated the university’s revenue from football to be roughly $10-12 million for the 2020 season, a sharp drop from the $37 million football generated in 2019.

“Football and basketball games, we’re at 25% capacity,” Holder said. “We reduced the number of football games. We lost some television games for football. What I anticipate for this fiscal year is for the Big 12 distribution to be significantly less for every institution. I think the same can be said for basketball.

“And then the revenue from home games in football and basketball will be significantly less. It’s a completely different challenge this year.”

Every sport in the department faced a budget cut. The department had layoffs and salary cuts.

“But there’s no way that we could cut expenses to the point to match the difference in the amount of revenue we’re generating. So there’s going to be a shortfall at the end of the year,” Holder said.

He has no way of projecting the size of the shortfall yet, with football having only recently completed, and basketball still ongoing. Estimating the revenue share from the Big 12 for either sport would be a shot in the dark, Holder says.

Spring is full of non-revenue sports. And even though the baseball team’s sparkling new home, O’Brate Stadium, officially opens this month, limited attendance requirements will prevent OSU from recouping its portion of the $60 million price tag.

OSU reported athletic contributions of $25.5 million for the 2020 fiscal year, and that number that will be down this year, too.

“Most of our supporters are experiencing the same thing we are,” Holder said. “There’s been a drastic change in the economic conditions for virtually every American since March of last year. It’s impacted us, it’s impacted the lives of all our supporters, and as a result, you would anticipate that donations are gonna be down.”

As Holder and his staff work out the financial issues, he vows that athletes will remain the top priority.

“Our priority, with all these challenges, has always been and will always be our student-athletes,” he said. “We’ve cut every place we can find, but the last thing we’ll ever do is cut something that affects our student-athletes’ ability to have success. And that includes scholarships.

“We’re trying to serve our mission in athletics, which is to educate our students and give them an opportunity to realize their dreams in the athletic world, but more importantly, to give them an education and the tools necessary to go out in the world and have a chance to have a productive, successful and happy life going forward.”

USA Today's Steve Berkowitz contributed to this report.

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›