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At least financially, Syracuse may have benefited from cancelling spring sports

Not that it makes up for the fact that the seasons were cancelled.

Michael J. Okoniewski

If you haven’t read Chris Carlson’s breakdown of the Syracuse Orange’s 2018-19 finances, I’d recommend heading there first. Since SU’s a private school, we typically have to wait a bit to learn anything about the money the athletic department spends and earns. And as soon as it’s available, Chris is quick to explain the most important parts.

Most importantly this time around is that Syracuse had revenues of nearly $100 million ($99.8 million) — a school record — to go with record spending of $82.9 million. It’s pretty amazing to think that our “small private school” takes home that much from athletics, but a lot’s changed in recent years since we joined the ACC.

Where my eyes immediately went to next were spring sports.

On Twitter this week, some P5 athletic officials have been talking about the losses incurred from the NCAA Tournament’s cancellation, and I wondered if Syracuse may have actually benefited from the cancellation of the spring sports already in progress. Obviously it’s not a benefit to the athletes or fans not to have sports. But from a financial standpoint, the question’s valid because of how much the Orange need to spend on certain sports in order to keep up.

As Carlson notes, Syracuse men’s lacrosse spends more than any other MLAX program in the country, and Orange WLAX is No. 2 in their sport. Some of that just comes from the coaching salaries, but a lot of it also comes from the fact that both teams play in a league without many nearby teams.

We see this for most Syracuse teams, to be honest, aside from maybe football — which is perhaps why so many Orange teams are big spenders per the data Carlson reported. SU is geographically isolated in most sports, save for Pitt and Boston College. That means increased travel costs compared to most of the rest of the league, and considerations they need to make that others don’t. It probably dictates schedules for sports all the way up to men’s basketball. It was likely set to be a major cost for both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams this spring without any home games after February.

Softball, too, spends most of its season on the road ‘til April, and that must add quite a bit of cost as well. These are the costs of doing business in the ACC, obviously. And we deal with them because of the financial benefits of league membership.

But they do exist, and without a full season of dealing with them — especially given the unique challenges of this season — it’s at least conceivable that SU saves a significant amount of money here.

Does it make up for the entirety of the NCAA Tournament credits lost? Probably not. But the gap’s probably a little closer than it would’ve been otherwise. Let’s just hope this doesn’t become a prolonged situation across the country, as it could start forcing some tough decisions from athletic departments as they wonder just how profitable their own spring sports (and maybe other sports too) are.