LARAMIE – Quite literally, University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl is a gift that keeps giving to the university he holds so dearly.
Bohl, entering his seventh season leading the Cowboys, and his wife, Leia, are donating $100,000 to the UW athletics department to pay for the scholarships of eight spring sport student-athletes who are taking advantage of the NCAA’s recent decision to grant an extra year of eligibility amid the cancellation of spring sports due to COVID-19.
Bohl’s donation will cover an estimated $70,000 in scholarships, and the remainder of Bohl’s donation will go toward the UW athletics training table and student-athletes’ nutritional needs. To UW athletics director Tom Burman’s knowledge, each of the eight student-athletes is on partial scholarship, and Bohl’s gift will cover the same amount of aid each received this year.
“(Bohl) knew I was frustrated that I couldn’t fund these scholarships for these seniors,” Burman told WyoSports. “(It’s) unbelievably heartwarming. I tip my hat to him. Coach Bohl is very invested in the University of Wyoming.”
On Monday, the NCAA announced it will grant spring athletes an additional year of eligibility following the cancellation of their seasons.
Athletes that would normally have exhausted their eligibility following the spring will have the option to return and compete at their respective institutions, though schools will be able to decide individually whether or not those athletes receive the same amount of financial aid they previously were given.
Each school is responsible for its own funding, as it was obviously not taken into account in annual budgets. According to the NCAA’s initial statement, universities will have access to an assistance fund to help pay for the additional season of eligibility.
Winter sports student-athletes – who had their championships canceled as well but had the majority of their seasons finished – were not granted an additional season of eligibility. UW will not cover the spring scholarships for non-seniors who received the additional eligibility, Burman said.
In a previous interview with WyoSports, Burman acknowledged he was not sure how the athletics department would pay for a hypothetical additional year for seniors, even though it was the correct move from a moral perspective.
“It’s the right thing, but how do we pay for it?” Burman said at the time. “I don’t know where at the present time Wyoming stands.”
There are just four spring sports at UW: track and field, women’s tennis and men’s and women’s golf. UW’s 2018-19 financial budget does not break down the expenses of individual sports outside of football and men’s and women’s basketball, but under “other sports” the total amount for student financial aid is more than $3.1 million.
“Leia and I have been blessed by our time at Wyoming. This is an opportunity for us to give back to the young people who represent our university so well,” Bohl said in a statement. “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”
At a moment in time where things seem bleak and uncertain on nearly every level, Bohl’s contribution provides some semblance of clarity to UW as college athletic departments across the nation scramble to make ends meet.
In 2018-19, UW athletics actually lost $1,107,168 overall, per UW’s online report. It would have been worse without direct institutional support from UW, which provided just over $13.5 million to the department. Without the NCAA’s funding from March Madness (budgeted at $1.6 million), it’s possible UW could find itself under water or close to it once again. UW made just over $1.9 million overall the previous year, with a little more than $13 million directly from the university.
Another issue at the moment is donations and, in this case, a lack thereof. Burman has said many donations to athletics come in during the spring, which is currently problematic given economic uncertainty. UW athletics generates $5 million in donations, Burman said, but is currently experiencing a “pretty quiet time” on that front. Corporate sponsorships also are up in the air, as many have been forced to close or are making significantly less money amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
UW’s total operating costs for athletics in 2018-19 was a little more than $48.1 million. Without money from the university and outside contributions, the athletic department had just under $24 million in revenue. The majority of athletic departments find themselves at a significant deficit without assistance. Without subsidy assistance, non-Power Five programs were at a median deficit of $22 million in 2018, per the NCAA.
While the athletic department still has a way to go as far as rebounding in the expected loss of revenue, ticket sales, etc., Burman, who is taking a 10% pay cut himself, is hopeful Bohl’s generosity will be the start of a bigger movement by staff.
“I don’t think this will be end of it from our staff … all of our revenues are going to be challenged,” Burman said. “We will prevail, but it’s going to be tough.”