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Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, left, shakes hands with LSU coach Ed Orgeron on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 at the celebration inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center marking LSU's 42-25 national championship win in football over Clemson.

The Southeastern Conference has cut some big checks to help its member schools make ends meet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SEC announced Wednesday that it has provided each of its 14 member schools with $23 million in supplemental revenue distribution — $322 million in all — to help mitigate the financial impact the coronavirus has on their bottom lines. The conference described it as a “one-time supplement” tapping into anticipated future league revenues.

“The extraordinary circumstances produced by the global pandemic have presented colleges and universities with an unprecedented disruption to their programs and budgets,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a written statement. “This supplemental revenue distribution will help ensure each SEC member will continue to provide high levels of support to its student-athletes.”

The SEC said its member schools suffered an average revenue shortfall of $45 million per athletic program. LSU said in October it expected to lose $80 million in the current fiscal year, prompting layoffs, salary cuts and a hiring freeze.

The conference is using future increases in media rights revenue to facilitate the supplemental funding. The SEC announced in December that it will enter an exclusive 10-year TV contract with ABC/ESPN/Disney beginning in 2024, reportedly worth $300 million per year.

Beginning in 2025, the conference will allocate a portion of the media rights fees to be received by the conference to fund the supplemental distribution. The SEC said it projects that its annual distribution to each school will still increase in 2025 and beyond, even after a portion of the new revenue is reallocated.

“This immediate financial support will help our athletics programs address some of the current challenges they are facing while also ensuring each program remains well-positioned for future success,” Sankey said.

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