CEDAR FALLS – Facing a shortfall of more than $2.5 million, the University of Northern Iowa athletics department launched its public phase of the UNI Fight Initiative, a special fund to help the department offset the loss of revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wednesday.
The shortfall number is likely to rise with schedule changes, seat limitations and the cost of implementing other protocols mandated by state and local laws and policies.
This initiative comes on the heels of UNI announcing twice, once in the spring and again in July that its athletic department employees had committed to take voluntary pay cuts, first through the 2019-20 fiscal year. Then in July, director of athletics David Harris announced that UNI staff and coaches agreed to extend those reductions through the 2020-21 fiscal year, and that all contract incentives for head coaches and Harris would be suspended for the same time period.
The University of Northern Iowa has taken steps to cut millions of dollars as it works to recover from revenue loss and expenses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand that these temporary reductions will be challenging for our staff and coaches, and we feel fortunate to have a team of staff members that understand the unprecedented situation that we face,” Harris said in July. “Our goals are to minimize the impact to our student-athletes, protect our human resources and emerge from this pandemic on strong fiscal footing.
“Our staff has proven that we can adapt and overcome challenges in previous years, and this year will likely be our most significant challenge to date. However, we will face this challenge together and help our student-athletes succeed. We look forward to another successful year in 2020-2021.”
The 2020-21 reductions impacted all employees making more than $41,000 annually. The reductions begin at $12.5 percent for the highest-paid employees to 5 percent on the lowest tier.
UNI staff and coaches will take temporary salary reductions. Contract incentives for head coaches and athletics director David Harris have been suspended for the fiscal year.
UNI Public Relations Manager Steve Schmadeke said in July that 45 athletic department employees were impacted by the reductions.
But despite those cost-cutting measures, UNI will still see a significant shortfall and the goal of the UNI Fight Initiative is to bridge the gap with the help of the Panther faithful.
"UNI has a reputation of overcoming tough circumstances," Harris said in a release Wednesday. "We come together to accomplish tasks that seem impossible and this is one of the toughest circumstances that we have ever faced. Now is the time to do what we always do and come together to tackle the challenge.
“Please consider making a one-time donation to the UNI Fight Initiative, above and beyond your normal gift, and help us during this unprecedented time. Your gift will help us maintain our focus on supporting our student-athletes in every aspect of their time at UNI."
Athletic department staff has already secured more than $300,000 in the first phase of the initiative with gifts of a few thousand dollars to more than $50,000.
"The response so far has been heartening," Harris said. "So many people have stepped up in a big way to get us started on very solid footing. I am thankful for everyone that has given. We have a long way to go to meet our goals and I know that Panther Nation will respond."
The voluntary pay cuts are for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Fans that contribute to the initiative will receive triple priority Panther Points for their one-time donation and all gifts are tax-deductible.
For more information about the UNI Fight Initiative, please visit the following unipanthers.com/index.aspx. To give now, please call 319-273-2471.
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