Pollard details financial challenges ahead for ISU Athletics in letter to fans

The following is a letter from Iowa State director of athletics Jamie Pollard released on Friday.

Dear Cyclone fans,

Thank you for the many emails, phone calls and text messages during the past week. The decision regarding fans at home football games clearly sparked considerable emotion throughout our community and fan base and I appreciate your candid feedback.

I am writing today to follow-up on that decision.  Our staff and I have worked very closely with President Wintersteen and her leadership team throughout the summer as we jointly developed plans for the 2020 fall season.  As previously shared, the discussions always focused on trying to find a safe pathway forward while remaining mindful of the significant ramifications of our decisions.

It is easy to have answers in challenging times but very difficult to have solutions. Now that we have an answer (no fans at football), we begin the painful process of identifying financial solutions to reconcile the impact of our decisions.

Last week we shared with the Board of Regents a financial summary that projected a budget deficit of approximately $17.5M. That report assumed we would have fans at football games. As a result of this week’s decision, we are now projecting a $30M deficit. Unfortunately, the athletics department does not have the ability to absorb that level of deficit. Furthermore, any deficit that is temporarily funded by the university will need to be re-paid by the athletics department over time. 

Here are several of the recommendations that we will be making to the university leadership team soon to begin addressing our significant financial challenge. 

1.         Layoffs and/or additional payroll reductions

Earlier this year, we implemented a 10% pay reduction for athletics department coaches and most department staff. That reduction in pay extends through June 30, 2021. In addition, we suspended all bonuses/incentives for coaches this fiscal year. Those two decisions saved our department nearly $4M. We now need to explore additional pay reductions for our coaches and staff as well as the possibility of layoffs.

2.         Eliminating sports

We will begin the process of evaluating what sport(s), if any, could be eliminated to help solve the financial shortfalls. Any decision to drop a sport must take into account Federal Title IX laws. Although dropping a sport(s) will not have a direct impact on the current financial challenges (i.e., current scholarships and employment contracts would need to be honored), future annual savings from the elimination of a sport(s) could help pay the university back for any short-term funding provided to solve this year’s budget deficit.

3.         Closing C.Y. Stephens’ Auditorium

The revenues generated from community members attending performing arts at C.Y. Stephens’ are simply not enough to cover the costs of facility operations. The university has been subsidizing operations at Stephens’ Auditorium at nearly $1M annually. In addition, the facility has significant deferred maintenance issues which would require another $25M to $50M to bring the building up to today’s standards.  As a result of the significant financial challenges facing the university and the athletics department, we are recommending that C.Y. Stephens’ Auditorium be closed indefinitely and future shows cancelled.

These are difficult times, but it is our reality. We fully recognize these options will spark further emotion in our campus community, fan base and department.   That is why we worked so hard to do everything possible in order to have fans at football games. In the end, the decision was that the risks to the community were simply too great to have fans in attendance. We understand and support that decision.  However, we now must face the challenges and consequences that stem from that decision.

Thank you for your continued support as we work our way through this significant challenge.

Go Cyclones!


Jamie Pollard

Director of Athletics

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.