Financial Issues Hit College Baseball Programs

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It took 161 years for a college baseball season to be shut down.

The first college baseball game ever played took place when Amherst beat Williams, 73-32 during a 26-inning contest in 1859.

On March 12, the coronavirus pandemic nuked the 2020 season as the College World Series was cancelled along with the season shortly after.

In an effort to answer important questions that linger after the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA and California junior colleges shut down their seasons, Collegiate Baseball contacted several people who can give those in the game much needed answers.

We talked to University of South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner, chairman of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee last season and an ABCA Hall of Fame baseball coach who amassed a 1,133-489 record in 25 years as a collegiate coach.

He led South Carolina to two national titles along with six trips to the College World Series.

We also contacted LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri, who has coached for 37 seasons at LSU, Notre Dame, Air Force and St. Thomas as his teams won 1,455 games entering the 2020 season.

Keep in mind the worst pandemic in history was the 1918 Spanish Flu which killed more than 50 million worldwide and infected an estimated 500 million people around the world, a third of the planet’s total population at that time.

During that pandemic, 675,000 Americans perished. Hopefully we never get to that point.

Measures have been put in place to protect all of us from another catastrophe.

Tanner explained the negative financial impact universities in the Southeastern Conference will feel since millions of dollars in gate receipts and concessions for conference games have been lost, let alone the NCAA Division I baseball championship.

“There will definitely be financial repercussions because of the cancellation of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament coupled with the loss of the Division I baseball championship. You have now lost the No. 1 and No. 2 revenue producers of all NCAA championships which help many athletic departments across the nation,” said Tanner.

Last year the NCAA Division I basketball tournament pulled in $933 million in revenue during the 3-week tournament, according to Investopedia.

Different sources told Collegiate Baseball that the 2019 College World Series alone netted $12 million and the entire 64-team championship much more due to television rights fees, ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.

It is believed the NCAA has some sort of insurance for a potential catastrophic event.

The coronavirus pandemic certainly falls into the category.

Nothing has been made public by the NCAA on such an insurance policy.

“Not being able to play our SEC baseball schedule is a serious concern to all of us in the SEC,” said Tanner.

Looking at 2019 attendance at NCAA Division I schools, six of the top seven schools in the nation in total and average attendance come from the SEC led by LSU which brought in 425,377 over 40 dates last season for an average of 10,634.

Eighteen of the top 20 schools in the nation in total home attendance are from the SEC, Big 12, ACC or Pac-12 conferences.

“A lot of schools from Power 5 conferences draw well in baseball. This is something that will be dealt with, but my main concern at this time is human lives. 

“This pandemic is a priority. We must try to do our best as a university and athletics department to try and mitigate the situation as far as large gatherings. We pray and hope the coronavirus numbers slow down and we can get back to normal. But nobody knows when that will be.

“We talk about playing games and financial ramifications. But the most important thing is the health and welfare of our staff, coaches and students.”

LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri said a serious financial issue is now facing colleges because of the cancellation of the Division I basketball tournament and Division I baseball tournament.

“All I know are the rumors that I have heard, and I don’t have any inside information,” said Mainieri.

“What I heard is that the NCAA has a big insurance plan, and that is why they had to make a decision so early and cancel the College World Series three months prior to the event as well as the softball World Series and other events on the docket.

“If you have a catastrophe that warrants collecting a major insurance policy benefit, probably it would have to be so catastrophic that all the sports would have to be cancelled. I don’t know that as fact. It is just a rumor.”

Mainieri said his program will be impacted because LSU never got to play even one home SEC series this season.

LSU has led the nation in attendance the past 24 years. In the last 10 years, LSU has averaged more than 10,000 for home games and seven of the last eight years has not had total yearly attendance below 418,000.

It is unprecedented in the annals of college baseball.

“I have no idea what the impact of not playing a home SEC schedule will mean for our program and LSU finances,” said Mainieri.

“I also don’t know if our school has an insurance policy for this to offset big losses.”

To read more of this in-depth story on the ramifications of cancelling the 2020 college baseball season, purchase the April 3, 2020 edition or subscribe by CLICKING HERE