A once-in-a-century pandemic resulted in a once-in-a-decade revenue hit for the Pac-12 and its member universities.
The conference on Friday reported $344 million in revenue for the 2021 fiscal year, according to federal tax filings provided to the Hotline in response to a request.
That figure constitutes the lowest revenue total for the Pac-12 since 2013 (not adjusted for inflation) — the first year of the current media rights agreement with Fox and ESPN and the inaugural year of the Pac-12 Networks.
The revenue plunge caused by COVID and the truncated 2020 football season resulted in the conference distributing an average of $19.8 million to each school, a drop of 41 percent from the prior year (FY20), when the pandemic had a negligible fiscal impact.
The Pac-12’s campus distributions, which help support athletic department operations, lagged far behind its Power Five peers, each of which played more football games.
According to USA Today, the SEC distributed $54.6 million per school in FY21; the ACC’s payouts ranged from $35 million to $38.1 million; the Big 12 distributions were from $34.7 million to $36.5 million; and Big Ten payouts ranged from $43.1 million to $49.1 million.
“While the global pandemic significantly impacted our 2020-21 financial results, I am incredibly proud of our conference’s collective commitment to the health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports,” said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, whose tenure began on the first day of the 2022 fiscal year.
“We are encouraged by the substantial return to pre-pandemic levels of revenue and distributions that our 2021-22 financial results will show when reported this coming year.”
The pandemic proved costly in numerous ways.
The Pac-12 spent $5.3 million on COVID tests by Quidel, the San Diego-based diagnostics company whose rapid antigen tests allowed the conference to restart its football season in early November of 2020 — weeks after the Big Ten restarted and two months after the Big 12, SEC and ACC began play.
The total testing cost (all sports, all schools) exceeded $11 million and was covered by the universities.
The Pac-12 Networks were hit hard, as well. Revenue dropped 64 percent — from $118 million in the year before the pandemic to $43 million during the COVID year.
In a normal football season, the networks air three dozen football games. In 2020, they showed just one: San Diego State at Colorado, the only non-conference game played by a Pac-12 team.
The networks reported $57 million in net operating expenses for a net loss of $14 million. (The conference declined to specify how much of the revenue shortfall could be directly attributed to the loss of the football telecasts.)
“These financial results are not unexpected given the tumultuous times our world has experienced,’’ said Oregon president Michael Schill, chair of the Pac-12 board.
“I am pleased to see revenue and distributions making rebounds now as the impacts of the pandemic subside.”
Former commissioner Larry Scott, who steered the conference through the pandemic, was credited with $3.7 million in salary during the 2020 calendar year, a 20 percent year-over-year drop. (Compensation figures are reported on a calendar year basis.)
Scott’s earnings in CY20 include a $750,000 bonus. In contrast, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not receive a bonus during CY20 after collecting $450,000 bonuses in each of the two previous years, according to USA Today.
Over the last five full years of his tenure, Scott received $23.8 million in total compensation, according to Pac-12 tax filings.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 Networks distributed approximately $11 million to each campus during that span, according to Pac-12 records and Hotline research.
All in all, the Pac-12 reported $99.7 million in expenses for combined conference and network operations during the COVID year, down from $129 million the year before.
A portion of those savings came from two rounds of salary reductions for Scott and senior executives — the first in April of 2020 for the final months of that fiscal year, then in July for the entirety of FY21.
As a result:
• In the 2019 calendar year, nine executives (excluding Scott) earned more than $400,000
• In the 2020 calendar year, seven earned more than $400,000
The situation was similar with bonuses:
• In the 2019 calendar year, six executives (excluding Scott) received bonuses in excess of $100,000.
• In the 2020 calendar year, four received bonuses in excess of $100,000, including Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken, who received a bonus of $331,000 and total salary of $1.2 million.
The presidents and chancellors set Scott’s salary, while he established the compensation for the conference and network executives.
In the summer of 2020, the Pac-12 laid off 15 employees and placed 79 on furlough.
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