Gov. John Bel Edwards knows how to get your attention — threatening the demise of college football in Louisiana.
“You can say farewell to college football,” he said in his televised speech about the dire state budget situation Thursday evening.
But before you tear up your coveted season tickets for the Jaguars or the Tigers, here’s the unlikely scenario that would have to play out in order for football season to end:
The governor was putting forth a worst-case scenario for higher education in his remarks last night that would play out in the event that no new revenue is raised.
The state is experiencing a midyear budget shortfall of more than $850 million. While Edwards is proposing some one-time money and budget cuts to off set the historic gap, he said more than half of the dollars will to be plugged with tax increases.
But Edwards is suggesting that if no new money is generated, then college and university campuses won’t have enough money for pay their faculty beginning April 30. His point is that you can’t force teachers to keep working if there’s no money to pay them.
“There is no money left for payroll after those dates,” he said. “Without legislators approving new revenue this special session, some campuses will be forced to declare financial bankruptcy, which would include massive layoffs and the cancellation of classes.”
That means, in this unprecedented and untested scenario, students would receive an incomplete grade in their classes.
That includes Louisiana’s beloved college athletes, who would be ineligible to play sports the following year if they don’t finish the academic school year.
But this scenario assumes that the state Legislature does virtually nothing to address the highly volatile budget crisis. Legislators coming into the special session, including House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, have stated they are amenable to a combination of budget cuts and tax increases in order to avoid devastating higher education and health care.
This is also not the first time threats to college and university campuses have been floated. As recently as last spring, ahead of the 2015 legislative session, higher education leaders were threatened with the possibility of losing $123 million in overall funding. Ultimately, higher education was spared from drastic cuts last year. However, colleges and universities have lost 55 percent of their share of state aid over the past seven years.