University of Utah to Furlough Entire Athletic Department amid Pandemic

Blake SchusterAnalyst IISeptember 5, 2020

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2018, file photo, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his team prepares to take the field prior to their game against the BYU during an NCAA college football game, in Salt Lake City. The Utes were selected to win the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll and they're also ranked in the preseason coaches' poll. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The University of Utah will furlough its entire athletic department because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to athletic director Mark Harlan, who discussed the situation with ESPN 700 radio's Bill Riley on Friday.

Both football coach Kyle Whittingham and men's basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak will be subject to the furloughs, per Harlan (h/t ESPN's Kyle Bonagura): 

"Anyone who works in the department is going to be furloughed for some period of time, and that's hard. But we thought collectively as a group that if we all do this together, it would minimize. We've had to lay off some folks in terms of job eliminations and that's been really hard. It's not about the people's performance; it's just the time and the struggle that we're in. We've eliminated bonuses. We've done the things that make sense to what people would expect us to do."

Harlan will also be furloughed, though the AD didn't specify when the temporary absences would happen or for how long. 

Harlan previously predicted the department would experience a budget shortfall between $50 million and $60 million in the wake of the pandemic. The Pac-12's decision to postpone all college athletics until at least January 2021 has also created a tougher financial outlook. 

Conference commissioner Larry Scott was optimistic during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show on Friday.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

"I've got a high degree of confidence that we'll be playing [football] in January," Scott said. "It's possible we could play sooner."

That seems more likely after the Pac-12 announced a deal with the Quidel Corporation to provide rapid daily testing, with machines set to be delivered by the end of September, but nothing is certain. 

Harlan, too, is optimistic following the Quidel agreement. That won't stop Utah from requiring drastic steps within its athletic department beforehand. 

"We've had to make some tough decisions," Harlan said, "because you can't wait for what might not happen."