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U of U furloughs all athletics employees

Posted at 8:44 PM, Sep 04, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah has announced that all employees of the school's athletics department will be furloughed.

Director of athletics Mark Harlan confirmed the move in a statement Friday. This comes a few weeks after the Pac-12 Conference announced a postponement of all sports competition through the end of the calendar year.

“The financial challenges that we are facing at Utah have led us to make difficult — but necessary — decisions to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic," the statement read.

In an ESPN 700 radio interview Friday, Harlan explained that they've had to make tough decisions, "because you can't wait for what might not happen."

He said they entered the situation in the best possible position with low debt, and he's confident they'll emerge strong.

"But that doesn't mean there's not been tremendous pain as we've gone through it like so many others and their businesses," he said in the radio interview.

The furloughs will include every employee of the department, including coaches, executive cabinet members and Harlan himself, he said.

Some positions are also being eliminated, as have all performance bonuses until further notice.

“These decisions were not based on employee performance, but rather reflect the significant financial shortfall we face as well as the realities of the postponement of fall sports competition," Harlan said. "We are prioritizing the areas of our athletics operations that directly support our student-athletes."

A Kem C. Gardner Institute study that looked at the Pac-12 football impact on Utah in 2012 found it brought in more than a combined $50 million in new revenue, increased earnings, gross state product, economic output or sales, and state tax revenue.

“While this study has not been updated since 2012, clearly the impacts have only grown as University of Utah football and the Pac-12 conference have experienced significant success in subsequent years,” said Nick Thiriot, communications director for the Gardner Institute. “University of Utah football is not only great on the field, it generates jobs, earnings, and state tax revenue. The economic impact of postponing the 2020-2021 season will undoubtedly be felt across the Utah economy.”

Harlan said in the radio interview that rapid testing, announced this week by the Pac-12, could be a "game changer" when it comes to the possibility of a season.

When asked about if the season could start earlier, like in November, Harlan responded that it would be significant, including for the psyche "of our kids who work so hard, and give everything they have."

"Anything that we can get in a safe way to get things going again, we're going to do and certainly would help," he said.