AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, as part of the Texas Tribune’s week-long Future of Higher Education virtual event, Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall and Texas Tech University System Chancellor Ted Mitchell met in a prerecorded conversation with the Texas Tribune’s Matthew Watkins.
Together, these two chancellors represent more than 141,000 Texas students across the state.
The conversation in this virtual event covered the range of ways university systems have been impacted by COVID-19, from the transition to online learning to broadband access for students in rural areas.
Before the event ended, Watkins made sure to ask each chancellor about how their college football programs were impacted as well.
McCall explained only one of the four football programs within his system is still playing games as a result of some conferences opting not to play. Texas State University continues to have football games but with a limited amount of spectators.
“It’s just the participation is just not going to be there,” McCall said. “And we get that, we understand that.”
While he understands the need to limit gatherings and take COVID-19 precautions, he acknowledged there is also a cost that comes with downsizing these events.
“At Sul Ross State University, a large percentage of our students go there because of athletics,” McCall said. “We have a big football team, and it’s a big, outdoor place, and the majority of our students, when polled, said athletics was a big part of the reason they chose Sul Ross.”
“That has a dampening effect on the college experience in a significant way, not just monetarily,” he added.
Mitchell suggested athletic departments in the Texas Tech University System are losing revenue as a result of COVID-19 modifications. He believes a lot of people would be surprised to know how few of all of NCAA Division 1 schools are actually “big money makers.”
“Generally speaking, at most universities the big driver is football, and football makes up the lion’s share of the percentage of the overall athletic department,” Mitchell shared.
Texas Tech University’s football program is playing on a schedule with the rest of the Big 12, consisting of nine conference games and one non-conference game. Stadium capacity for home football games has been reduced to 25%.
Mitchell said, “the hopes are to try to do everything that we can to play ball this season—football—I’m talking specifically out of Texas Tech.”
As with the rest of the Big 12 football programs, Texas Tech athletes are getting COVID-19 testing several times a week.
“And so from one week to the next, literally, you could have a game where you say ‘well we can’t play this particular week’ and every single weekend that you don’t play, universities stand to lose millions, millions of dollars,” Mitchell said.
“It really is, at the end of the day from an operational standpoint, not just from a spirit standpoint but from an operational standpoint—it’s a huge hit to everyone’s bottom line,” he added.