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UW Athletics eliminates 16 positions in latest round of cost-saving measures

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 10, 2020

In this 2017 photo, Washington cheerleaders and Harry, the Husky mascot, set off smoke effects as they lead the team out of the tunnel at Husky Stadium in Seattle.   (Associated Press)
In this 2017 photo, Washington cheerleaders and Harry, the Husky mascot, set off smoke effects as they lead the team out of the tunnel at Husky Stadium in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – In a presentation to the University of Washington’s board of regents on Thursday, athletics director Jen Cohen and chief financial officer Kate Cullen outlined plans to shrink department salaries by 17% – or $8 million – in the 2021 fiscal year. Those cuts are coming, according to an accompanying budget document, via “voluntary contract reductions, department-wide furloughs and other staffing cuts.”

On Thursday, those staffing cuts continued.

In a second round of cost-saving measures to combat the economic effects of COVID-19, UW athletics eliminated 16 positions – some of which were filled, and others vacant – and instituted temporary furloughs or FTE (full-time equivalent hours) reductions for an additional 35 staff members.

A UW spokesperson declined to share which specific positions were eliminated.

“Today is an extremely difficult day,” Cohen said in a statement. “We have remained committed to maintaining all 22 of our programs and to providing a world-class education and athletic experience for our students. In order to fulfill this commitment we are having to make some challenging personnel decisions that impact long-standing and dedicated members of our department. The current pandemic continues to have a major impact on our entire country and we are not immune.

“Our generous donors and fans share a passion for all of our programs on Montlake and we can’t thank them enough for how they have already stepped up to support our mission to provide holistic development opportunities for students. We recognize we have a long road ahead but are confident that this community will rally around our beloved student-athletes and programs, and their support will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

On Aug. 11, the Pac-12 Conference announced the postponement of all sports competitions through the end of the year. Cohen wrote in a letter to UW fans that the department could suffer as much as $70 million in losses if Husky sports continue to be canceled.

UW’s revised budget projections, which assume a winter or spring football season featuring six to eight games and zero fan attendance, anticipate more than $50 million less revenue than the department expected in May and a net operating deficit of $13.4 million – and that’s after the salary restrictions. Should the football season be scrapped, UW estimates an additional $20 million in losses.

On June 26, UW announced plans for a 10% total staff salary reduction (roughly $5 million) in FY21. At that time, all Husky head coaches voluntarily agreed to a minimum 5% salary reduction, and assistant coaches and contract staff (including trainers, strength and conditioning and medical staff) were asked to accept a voluntary minimum 3% pay cut.

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