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Washington State eliminates 10 athletic dept. positions with new cost containment plan

Washington State athletic director Patrick Chun, walking on the field before a football game in 2018, has announced another wave of cost-containment measures.  (Associated Press)

In mid-April, when Washington State realized the full scope of the financial ramifications that would come with not playing a spring sports slate, the athletic department announced its first wave of cost-cutting strategies.

At the time, those measures, not insignificant by any means, included voluntary 5% pay reductions for president Kirk Schulz, athletic director Pat Chun, football coach Nick Rolovich and men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith, and the forfeiture of any incentives or bonuses for now.

It turns out, those measures were just the tip of the iceberg.

As WSU continues to deal with the financial fallout of not holding a football season, Chun announced another wave of cost-containment measures to mitigate what could be a $30 million loss in athletic department revenue this fall.

In an email update from WSU, Chun said the department has eliminated 10 full-time staff positions. While it’s unclear what those positions are, they’re the first COVID-19-related layoffs to take place at WSU since the global pandemic shuttered college sports in March.

Chun, Rolovich and Smith will also all take 15% voluntary salary reductions, and women’s basketball coach Kamie Ethridge will take a 12.5% salary reduction through the end of the 2020-21 academic year. Only Chun, Rolovich and Smith were asked to take pay cuts when the school announced its initial cost-saving strategy in mid-April.

Every other head coach, assistant coach and contracted staff member has been asked, or mandated, to take a 10% salary reduction.

Last month, it was revealed that all noncontracted staff members would be required to take multiple furlough weeks this fall. According to the Friday update, those two furlough weeks must be taken by Nov. 20 and will now be supplemented by two more furlough weeks, between Feb. 1-June 1, 2021.

The new cost-cutting plan should save the school approximately $3.4 million. Combined with a reduction of operating expenses estimated at about $3.1 million, WSU will be saving approximately $6.5 million in the 2021 fiscal year.

“Most of these cuts are not sustainable beyond this fiscal year,” Chun said in the update. “As a reminder, Washington State University operates as the most fiscally efficient athletic department amongst our Power 5 conference peers.

“As you would imagine, our coaches and staff have displayed tremendous commitment and sacrifice. I can’t thank our coaches and staff enough for their continued grit, passion and dedication. I give them a heartfelt applause for their efforts as we continue to tackle the unknown challenges brought on by this pandemic.”

Prior to the Pac-12’s postponement of the fall season, WSU gave season-ticket holders the option to donate or credit their season-ticket purchases.

Chun said around 80% of fans opted to do so – “another example of the enormous heart that beats within the Cougs.”

WSU isn’t the only Pac-12 school that’s introduced intense cost-saving measures since the conference’s postponement last month. Cross-state rival Washington announced earlier in the week it would eliminate 17 full-time positions, while another 35 staff members would receive furloughs or FTE (full-time equivalent hours) reductions.

According to the Seattle Times, the school is aiming to shrink athletic department salaries by 17%, or $8 million, in the 2021 fiscal year.