Auburn University athletic director Allen Greene on Saturday addressed Auburn football boosters and season ticket holders in an email message after the start of the season was postponed by three weeks. Greene told the boosters and season ticket holders how important they are to the university and the athletics program.
While Auburn has 21 sports, $63 million of Auburn’s $150 million athletics budget comes from the donations of football boosters and football ticket sales.
“Many of you have felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic directly or indirectly on your daily lives and your future plans,” Greene said. “Auburn Athletics is no different, particularly when it comes to forecasting our financial position. While the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming college football season and other fall sports prevents us from knowing the full extent of the fiscal challenge we’ll face in 2020-21, we know it will be significant.”
“To manage the financial impact of COVID-19, we are evaluating every expense while seeking to preserve the unparalleled student-athlete experience for which Auburn is renowned,” Greene said. “For generations, our generous Tigers Unlimited donors and season ticket holders have provided the resources that have allowed Auburn to compete for championships in the most competitive league in America, the Southeastern Conference.”
“While this support has always been vital to Auburn’s success, it’s never been more critical than it is right now,” Greene said. “Like our peers, ticket sales, donations and media rights comprise our three largest revenue sources. … Any alteration to the 2020 football season, whether fewer games, fewer fans or both, would further magnify Auburn’s reliance on the generosity of our donors.”
“Thanks to our Tigers Unlimited members and season ticket buyers, Auburn’s 550 student-athletes in 21 sports continue to have everything they need — scholarships, coaching, facilities, nutrition, sports medicine, academic support and mental health services — to compete at the highest level while becoming Auburn women and men,” Greene told the athletic boosters. “Your support directly impacts 550 student-athletes across 21 sports. Donors and ticket buyers are vital to funding every Auburn athletic program and student-athletes on and off the field.”
“Thank you for your unwavering commitment to Auburn University and our student-athletes. Because of your investment, we will meet the challenges associated with COVID-19,” Greene concluded. “Your contributions will help Auburn weather this crisis and position the Tigers to enjoy even greater success after the coronavirus storm has passed.”
On Thursday, the Southeastern Conference, of which Auburn and the University of Alabama are both members, announced that they were postponing the start of the college football season until Sept. 26 and reducing the number of games from 12 to 10. Furthermore, the season will be conference-only. Auburn had planned to play four non-conference opponents, three of them at home. The change reduces the number of football games at Auburn from seven to just five.
“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans remains our top priority,” Greene said on Thursday. “In that spirit, we deeply appreciate Commissioner Sankey’s leadership and the tireless efforts of the Conference staff during ongoing discussions related to fall competition.”
“The Presidents and Chancellors’ decision to implement a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season is prudent and the Tigers are fully supportive,” Greene said. “While the format of the football schedule is confirmed, there are many other items related to football and other fall sports that warrant robust discussion, and the leaders in the Southeastern Conference are committed to working through these discussions in a thoughtful manner.”
Auburn normally has nearly 90,000 fans in attendance at games. Due to social distancing rules to guard against the spread of the coronavirus, Auburn is highly unlikely to be able to play any of its games at capacity. Whether the stadium will be limited to 50 percent capacity or less — or if there will be any fans allowed in the stands at all is a decision that will still have to be made in consultation with Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
The wearing of masks or cloth face coverings is currently required whenever people are within six feet of persons not from their household. That order has been extended through the end of August, but is likely to remain in place for months to come. The SEC has also postponed the start of men’s and women’s cross country until at least the end of August.