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Utah Utes football asks season ticket holders if they would kindly pay for games that don’t exist

Utah asks donors and season ticket holders if they can hold a few dollars until next August.

Samson Nacua of the Utah Utes celebrates after scoring a touchdown and a two point conversion late in the third quarter during the Pac-12 Championship football game against the Oregon Ducks at Levi’s Stadium on December 6, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. Alika Jenner/Getty Images

College athletic departments across America are featuring massive financial downswings. With no college football games to broadcast or tickets to sell, it has reached crisis scale at schools across America.

But one of the newest members of the Pac-12 has a solution: the Utah Utes are asking stakeholders for a payday loan with no interest! Oh BTW it’s not a loan as they don’t intend to give you your money back if you agree.

The ReinvestInU webpage put together by the program is an example of the measures even Power Five FBS programs need to stay afloat in a Covid-19 world. In exchange for not asking for a refund for your season tickets and the tax-deductible donation associated with it, you’ll receive the following benefits.

What incentives will I receive for reinvesting my 2020 payment as a tax-deductible contribution?

Increased Crimson Club priority. For every dollar converted to a tax-deductible donation, Utah Athletics will match with a dollar of additional soft credit to your 2021 Crimson Club priority (up to $1,000 soft credit).

Public recognition of your generous support.

Exclusive engagement opportunities in 2020 and beyond.

Seat purchase and allocation priority for a potential Spring season.

To give you an idea of the shortfall, here’s part of a letter from athletic director Mark Harlan to fans:

As our student-athletes continue to do their part, we need to do ours. Utah Athletics, like many of our peers, is facing an unprecedented financial challenge as we navigate the impacts of this pandemic. At this time, we anticipate a $55-60 million revenue loss just in this fiscal year alone. We are prepared to weather this storm, in part because of your generosity through the years, along with difficult but necessary cost-saving measures within the department

I write you today to respectfully ask you to consider, as you have so many times, to reinvest in Utah Athletics.

It’s not a financial hostage situation, as season ticket subscribers can either “reinvest” all or a portion of 2020 payments, apply payments to the fall 2021 football season, or request a full refund including of donation. But creating an entire program hoping people are willing to forfeit the money for services not provided is generally not a normal business practice.

Not playing affects the Conference of Champions more than their other P5 brethren, as their media rights deal already pays significantly less than their peers. The revenue gaps for most schools are over 50% of their annual budget, so it’ll be lots of layoffs and other cuts unless dollars come in the door. Some schools can borrow from their foundations or endowments to free up short-term capital, but for the ones that can’t it might come down to the generosity of their fans and alumni.

One thing is for certain: You can bet the 2019 Pac-12 South Champions won’t be the first team to try and add short term cash via this method.