Capacity decisions for Nebraska football home games will be coming within the next two weeks and season-ticket holders will have options with how they wish to proceed in 2020.
Such was the message Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos conveyed to season-ticket holders in an email Friday afternoon, with the football team’s Sept. 5 season opener at Rutgers a month away. The home debut against Illinois follows Sept. 12.
The athletic department is facing a revenue shortfall of between $40 million and $100 million in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the email said, with the loss of two home games and almost certain crowd limitations playing major roles. The message included a graphic that broke down standard annual revenue for the department as $69 million from tickets and donations, $55 million from memberships with the Big Ten and NCAA and $22 million from sponsorships like Adidas.
Nebraska season-ticket holders can get a full refund on their 2020 payment, marking a departure from standard program policy. They can also roll over that payment to the 2021 season.
In the email, fans are asked to fill out a survey signaling their intentions by Aug. 14.
In light of the imminent financial hardship, Nebraska is also introducing a “Day by Day” campaign to help offset the deficit. It asks fans to consider tax-deductible donations to the Husker Athletic Fund that help support more than 600 student-athletes.
The department completed the 2019 fiscal year with an operating surplus of $12.085 million, according to the school’s revenue and expense financial report filed with the NCAA. That included $136.233 million in total operating revenue and total expenses of $124.148 million. Of the surplus, $5 million was transferred to the university to fund scholarships for non-student-athletes and another $5 million went to the chancellor to be used at his discretion for the academic mission of the university.
As for crowds at Memorial Stadium, Moos said conversations are ongoing with campus leadership along with local government and health officials.
“Physical distancing to achieve recommended capacity in the seating areas may require a reduction in season ticket quantities to accommodate as many accounts as possible,” the message said. “Communication on capacity and safety guidelines will be delivered no less than two weeks prior to the first home game.”
Many other Big Ten schools have already put caps on their crowds for 2020. This week alone, Iowa announced it would limit attendance at Kinnick Stadium to 10,000-15,000 while Penn State said it would have no fans at games. Minnesota said “few spectators or no spectators” would attend in a state that currently has a 1,500-person limit for outdoor venues.
Nebraska is the owner of 375 consecutive sellouts dating back to 1962. Moos said publicly this week the athletic department is exploring a variety of contingencies regarding crowd sizes at Memorial Stadium.
Scheduled Husker home games this season are Illinois (Sept. 12), Wisconsin (Sept. 19), Minnesota (Oct. 3), Penn State (Oct. 31) and Michigan State (Nov. 21).
The 2020 Nebraska football schedule
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