LSU athletic director Scott Woodward sent a letter Friday to the school's Tiger Athletic Foundation donors saying the athletic department has set up a new fund to help make up the substantial revenue loss the school will take because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reduced capacity in Tiger Stadium during the 2020 football season, plus LSU's operating costs with its COVID-19 measures "will lead to unprecedented revenue losses in the tens of millions of dollars," Woodward wrote.
"The financial realities of the spread of COVID-19 on our program are significant," Woodward wrote in the letter. "... Reducing the impact of those losses on our student-athletes is our top priority."
LSU athletics brought in $157 million of revenue in 2018-19, according to NCAA reporting documents. The football program made more than half of that money, totaling $91,950,610 — a sum that helped LSU pay for most of its other non-revenue sports.
Ticket sales ($36,300,058) made up nearly 40% of football revenue. Reduced capacity in Tiger Stadium in 2020 will cost LSU millions. No fans would be devastating.
The athletic department's new fund is called the Victory Fund, a tax-deductible fund that LSU said offers additional "Priority Points" for donations.
According to the fund's official web page, it will support with general operating revenue loss and additional COVID-19 expenses — a list that includes scholarships, healthcare and academic support.
"In spite of our very real challenges, I remain optimistic about our future, in large part because of your support, your passion and your commitment to our student-athletes," Woodward said.
LSU has not yet announced how many people will be allowed inside Tiger Stadium when the Southeastern Conference's 10-game, league-only season begins on Sept. 26.
LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry told WNXX-FM last Friday that Tiger Stadium's occupancy will depend on what reopening phase the state is in. Ausberry didn't know the actual numbers, and he said, under the state's current Phase 2 stage of reopening, Tiger Stadium would be limited to 50% capacity; it would increase to 75% under Phase 3.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that the entirety of Ausberry's interview shows LSU is planning on "multiple contingencies." Edwards said he's had direct conversations with Woodward regarding capacity and doesn't "know exactly what that's going to look like yet."
"We're going to have to see where we are in terms of our cases, our positivity, hospitalizations," Edwards said. "All of those things will inform what we think we can safely do here in Louisiana when football resumes."