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San Jose State wide receiver Bailey Gaither, right, catches a pass against Boise State cornerback Jalen Walker (15) during a game Nov. 2, 2019.

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BOISE — Boise State athletic director Curt Apsey acknowledged Thursday that the loss of the 2020 fall football season due to the COVID-10 pandemic will force the athletic department to run a deficit for the foreseeable future while it looks to make up the lost revenue.

“They’ll be some type of plan where we have to operate in the red for a little while until we can figure out how we’re going to pay it back over a period of time, and we’re working on that as we speak,” Apsey said.

The Idaho Press reported last week that Boise State estimated a loss of $20 million with no fall football, which amounted to nearly half of the entire athletic department budget. But the deficit won’t be quite that large because the Broncos will save money on the other canceled fall sports — men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball — which traditionally lose money.

“The goal here is not to find $20 million in savings. That’s impossible for us,” Apsey said. “But I don’t think we can sit back and just talk about how we save. We have to talk about how we can generate revenue in the most difficult time there’s ever been.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to take the deficit, whatever it’s going to be, and make it as small of a number as we can possibly go into the next academic year.”

It appears at least for now that plan won’t include cutting additional sports. Boise State has already cut two programs, baseball and women’s swimming and diving, as a result of the budget issues caused by the pandemic. Boise State hopes to avoid having to do so again, but won’t completely rule it out.

“That’s not our plan right now,” Apsey said. “We’re certainly trying to do it in other ways. Personally I do not want to go through that again. That was really, really hard. But I would also say that everything is on the table. We’ve got to look at every way we can save money and start to decrease the amount of debt that’s going to come with this season.”

Apsey said he’s hopeful corporate sponsors and big donors will step up to help the athletic department during this tough time. Fundraising will be a major part of Boise State’s plan to deal with the current budget crisis. He’s also asking coaches to limit spending as much as possible.

“We’re going to push to raise more money and put a campaign together that supports our student-athletes and our department in the very near future,” Apsey said. “We have to be extremely diligent making sure that we’re spending our money as wisely as we can. The goal is to get that net loss down as low as possible. We’re obviously going to run in the red and we’ve got to have a plan to do that going forward.”

As for whether Boise State will take out a loan or what it is legally allowed to do, Apsey said, “That’s what we’re figuring out right now. There’s some different ways to do it .... I do see us running a deficit and having some type of payment plan, whether that’s a loan or whatever that may be. We have to work close with the leadership on campus, the State Board of Education, there’s different groups we have to work with. Today I don’t have the exact answer.”

Apsey is hopeful a spring football season is able to happen because that would help limit the deficit should they be able to recoup revenue from TV contracts and College Football Playoff payments. Putting fans in the stands even in a limited capacity also would help generate needed revenue.

“If we are able to have a spring season obviously that is going to help tremendously,” Apsey said. “(But) there’s no guarantees. We don’t know where we’re going to be in three or four months.”

As for what changed in the five days between the Mountain West announcing a revised schedule and deciding to not have a fall season at all, Apsey mentioned recent studies about how the coronavirus can affect the heart as one.

“Five days in the course of these last six months seems like five years,” Apsey said. “I don’t know if anything drastically changed, but there’s that word of the unknowns. We start to hear things like this disease can really affect the heart and maybe affect you going forward.

“We have a conference where we have schools in seven or eight states and guidelines are different .... Our presidents have been concerned the whole time. That didn’t just happen in five days.”

The three canceled nonconference games — Florida State, Georgia Southern and Marshall — all will likely be rescheduled for future years, according to Apsey. The big one is Florida State, which would have been one of the biggest games in the history of sports in the state of Idaho.

“We’ve been in many conversations with their athletic director and the goal is to try and get it back on the schedule,” Apsey said. “That one hurts. It was done seven years ago and our fans have been looking forward to that all this time and it got wiped out, for this year at least.

“But the goal is to get it done again and hopefully we can find a date that works for both of us sooner rather than later.”

Despite the Pac-12 also postponing men’s and women’s basketball games through the end of the calendar year, Apsey said the Mountain West likely will wait a while before making any decisions in regards to winter sports.

“We’ve still got some time for that to see how this pandemic kind of pans out over the next couple of months,” Apsey said. “We need to be patient like we were with the football season.”

The bottom line from Apsey’s 29-minute chat with reporters on Thursday? Boise State appears to be stuck in the middle of a bad situation financially — and with no real obvious or easy plan to rectify things.

“We’re going to try and save and raise as much as we can,” Apsey said. “We’re going to do the best we can to get ourselves out of this. It’s going to take everybody.”

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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