College Athletics: Ramifications of Wefald’s prediction bleak

Jon Wefald, president emeritus of Kansas State University, speaks about the possibility of the 2020 college athletic season from his home Tuesday, July 28, on Bay Lake near Deerwood. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

John Wefald is at it again.

The former Kansas State University president and current Bay Lake area resident predicted there wouldn’t be college football for the fall of 2020 in an interview on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on ESPN radio as well as in an article in the Brainerd Dispatch July 29.

This was before the Big 10 and Pac-12 announced the cancellation of the football seasons. The SEC, ACC and Big 12, which Wefald helped create while at Kansas State, are planning on playing this fall — as of Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Wefald said recent news from North Carolina University where the campus was closed to in-person classes after 130 students tested positive for COVID-19 has him still believing fall football will be unlikely.

Similar instances of COVID-19 outbreaks at Oklahoma State University and Notre Dame, which forced both institutions to move to online classes, added fuel to Wefald’s beliefs.


The recent news, however, nor being right, is making Wefald happy. He said he loves college football and can’t imagine what the fall will be like without Saturdays filled with college fight songs and athletics.

More troubling for Wefald are the ramifications he believes will occur if he’s correct.

Here’s one: “If the 2020 football season is not played, the loss of TV revenues is virtually off the charts,” Wefald wrote in an email. “The Minneapolis Star Tribune did a thorough examination of what would happen to the budget of Minnesota if they lost their ESPN, FOX, and ABC, etc. TV revenues. The University of Minnesota would lose over half of its $123 million dollar budget. Kansas State's athletic budget for this past year was $84 million. I think you can make this general comment: all of the 65 power schools would lose almost half of their athletic budget. We know that all of the paid football tickets for 2020 would have to be refunded. A Texas A&M study showed that for most businesses in Bryan/College Station they would lose more than 20% of their current revenue. The College Station Chamber President declared this: ‘I will tell you anecdotally that if you move football to this spring. . .there will be people not in business by spring. . .It will put people out of business. That is not an exaggeration. There's no doubt about it.’

“Furthermore, USA Today reported recently that the 65 Power Five schools (Big 10, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12, ACC) have at least $4.1 billion in fiscal-year revenues tied to football — which is more than 60% of their athletics departments' combined total annual operating revenues reported for the 2019 fiscal year. Thus, no matter how you cut it, having no fall 2020 football season will be calamitous for years to come for a ton of athletic departments.”

Wefald said the logical conclusion would be the cutting of most if not all non-revenue producing sports at those universities. In an interview Tuesday, Wefald looked at Stanford University, which already cut 11 varsity sports programs: men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling.

“Stanford University, one of the top five universities in America, has already announced one dramatic change that will soon spread to virtually most of the other Power Five universities: namely, the wholesale elimination of Olympic sports,” Wefald said. “And Stanford is not just one of the private universities anywhere, it is one of the wealthiest.”

Another prediction Wefald foresees and one he might be inclined to support is the drastic reduction in pay for college coaches and their staff. Wefald sighted a report that said the highest paid public official in 40 of the country's 50 states is either a college football or basketball coach.

John Calipari, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach, is the highest paid public official in the country. Arkansas’ highest paid employee is former coach Chad Morris.


Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Vermont are the 10 states that do not have a coach as their highest paid public official. University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck is the highest paid in Minnesota at $3.6 million annually.

“I believe that in the very near future that salaries for Power Five head coaches in football and men's basketball will start going down,” Wefald wrote. “The reductions for these highly paid coaches have already started. My guess, like several others, is that these funds will not be returned to the coaches already cut. In fact, many schools in the Power Five conferences will be paying any new coaches less than what they might have gotten even two years ago. I am not saying that salaries for football coaches and basketball coaches will go down to what they were five to seven years ago, but the trend downward in the pay for these high visibility coaches is not going to end soon. This means that most Power Five athletic departments will know up front that no matter who they hire in football or men's basketball hardly any are going to be the once in a lifetime coach that every department dreams about — because each generation or era only has three to five transformational coaches — if that. In short, very few athletic directors are going to pay $70 million dollars for a new football coach or even one that gets a new contract.”

With those two predictions don’t even get Wefald started on the idea of paying college athletes. That subject will be for another time.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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