MEMPHIS, Tenn. — No business is immune to the economic fallout of COVID-19, not even University of Memphis Athletics.
Memphis AD Laird Veatch made that abundantly clear Thursday.
"We are very much asking, very directly, to get people to try to help us," Laird told reporters at a virtual news conference.
The University launched their "Keep Memphis Roaring" campaign Thursday. In it, they ask season ticket holders to donate or defer the value of their season tickets.
That is a bold request of fans, many of whom have their own financial concerns. But Veatch says his department wouldn't ask unless it was desperately needed.
"It's looking pretty dire," he said. "It really gets to a point now where if we aren't able to manage this, if we don't get the support we need, it is going to start impacting people and jobs and salaries and programs. It could potentially have a longer term impact than what we are trying to accomplish out of this."
You do not hear that from an athletic director every day, but these are not everyday times.
The Tigers have six regular season home games scheduled beginning September 5. As of now the Shelby County Health Department is requiring 12 feet of social distancing between ticket groups. That means there will only be around 4,500 people allowed inside the Liberty Bowl, including players and staff.
Veatch said the cuts already made to the athletic department's budget this summer were done with the expectation of requiring a six-foot social distancing radius, meaning they planned to host twice as many fans as they are being permitted right now.
"We are at a point where, frankly, the financial impact of this are becoming very frightening and concerning," he said. "This program has been an amazing place the last few years in particular. The momentum is one of the reasons I was so excited to come here. We have a lot to be excited about, but how we manage this and the support we get is really going to determine what happens for us on the back side of it."
If conditions improve to where the Tigers can host fans with six-feet of social distancing, season ticket plans will be honored. For now, only those who donate the full value of their plan will be given up to eight single game tickets for the 2020 season.