Michigan Wolverines flag flies during 2019 football season
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As the Michigan Wolverines prepare for the 2020 college football season, there is more on the line than ever for head coach Jim Harbaugh’s program. If the Wolverines can’t take the field this season and fall sports are canceled, the economic fallout could be devastating for the University of Michigan.

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted schools across the country this spring, wiping out sports for the semester and leading to the cancelation of March Madness. With millions of dollars in revenue already lost, countless universities eliminating sports programs.

With the 2020 college football season fast approaching, things will worsen for Michigan and other universities if games aren’t played.

University of Michigan projects massive revenue hit without college football

The Big Ten is moving forward with a conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season with teams beginning training camp this week. However, Michigan’s athletic department has already experienced a massive revenue hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After estimating it would face a $26 million budgetary deficit in the 2020-’21 academic year, Michigan informed season-ticket holders that the gravity of the situation could be far worse.

Before the 2019 season, Forbes ranked the Wolverines as the third-most valuable team in college football, turning an average three-year profit of $83 million.

Michigan anticipates a $29.2 million decrease in spectator admissions and a preferred seat contributions decrease of $17 million. It could get even worse if the school has to play games in empty stadiums, moves that Penn State and Wisconsin are already working on.

Many expected the COVID-19 pandemic to impact hundreds of universities across the country, creating unfathomable budgetary deficits. Unfortunately, it’s evident that iconic universities and marquee programs will also face severe consequences from this pandemic.

There remains real hope for the 2020 college football season, especially given everything at stake. If the pandemic doesn’t improve and student-athletes aren’t willing to risk their health in sports without compensation, the fallout will be felt for years to come.