Ohio State athletics unveils new fundraising effort while managing revenue losses

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
The Fawcett Center at The Ohio State University photographed on Thursday, July 16, 2020. [Fred Squillante/Dispatch]

Faced with tens of millions of dollars in revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio State’s athletic department announced a fundraising campaign on Thursday aimed at supporting some of its critical expenditures.

Referred to as “Higher Purpose,” the initiative is pursuing donations that will be put toward an athletics excellence fund, according to a news release.

The fund “supports the greatest need of the Department of Athletics as determined by the Athletics Director or the highest ranking official in the Department of Athletics,” as detailed on its website.

The department identified nine critical areas that support athletes across 36 varsity sports teams, involving academic support, athletic training, coaching, facilities, medical, mental health, nutrition, professional development and strength and conditioning. The areas were part of what it referred to as a “circle of care.”=

No other major conference athletic department in the country sponsors as many sports as Ohio State after Stanford announced this summer that it was cutting 11 teams.

OSU athletic director Gene Smith has said the school has no plans to drop any sports despite a sizeable budget hole related to the pandemic.

“In order to maintain that standard of excellence, the department is calling on its friends, donors and Buckeye Nation to support and maintain the people and programs that have set it apart,” the release read.

Last month, the department projected an operating deficit of $107 million over the current fiscal year, which runs through June.

According to a summary document, it has budgeted $73.3 million for operating revenues and $180.8 million for operating expenses.

The gloomy outlook did not include potential media rights revenues that could be realized if the Buckeyes are able to play a football season this fall without significant interruptions. They open against Nebraska next week.

But the losses are expected to remain steep as no fans will be permitted to attend games this season, eliminating the top source of revenue for the department.

Revenues from ticket sales eclipsed $50 million in recent years, along with other gameday income related to parking, concessions, merchandise and more.

In addition to its fundraising efforts, the department is pursuing a loan from the university to help manage its deficit.

No terms have been finalized. The loan is expected to be repaid over a period of time, Smith said.

The department does not receive subsidies from the school or state funding.