Pandemic impacts sports industry; athletics department, student athletes find ways fundraise

Written By Jonah Sommers, For The Globe

Financial struggles still plague the Point Park athletic department under the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, athletics staff has led fundraising efforts to help shore up budget shortfalls.

According to Athletics Director John Ashaolu, some of these challenges are paying for screenings for visiting and home teams, decreased funding with business partners and assigning more duties to athletic staff. Likewise, these challenges would have had an effect on student athletes as well.

“It doesn’t even feel like we had a real season because of what COVID-19 did to us last year,” said Jared Topping, sophomore basketball player and business marketing major. “You don’t think about it much, but the only time we really played was in practice or a scrimmage.”
Point Park is among many universities nationwide that have created fundraisers to handle these financial effects. Universities have raised over $100,000 in revenue to directly support the COVID-19 relief effort in their athletic departments at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Linfield University in Oregon.

“The Athletic Department has always been conscious about spending,” Ashaolu said. “Cost savings will come into play when we need it to.”
With COVID bringing these new financial necessities, fundraising is becoming more common in the department to help manage budget shortfalls and collect revenue to pay for screenings and travel.

On September 24, the athletic department held its 11th Annual Support the Pioneers! Golf outing. The event fundraises money every year for the department to help with travel costs for every sport, but the screenings are now coming in and will cost more for the department.

In the past, athletic staff and a few programs have done fundraisers with the Steelers and Pirates but were unable to do so again because there were no games to attend this past season.

The baseball team worked around this problem by creating a video to send to former donors and partners of the program asking for help with these problems.

“The video was a success,” Ashaolu said. “The baseball program raised about $17,000 from that video alone.”

The athletic staff has brainstormed more ideas for fundraising in the future. Ashaolu said that a “Giving Week ” is his best idea for fundraising, where the different programs within the department would compete in a funding race where the family, friends and alumni of each team would donate and the program with the most money raised would win.

The athletic department has many connections and partnerships with local businesses in the area. Hickory Heights Golf Club is where the Support the Pioneers! Golf Outing is hosted and is owned by an alumni who opens the course every year for the department.

Looking forward, the Athletic Department said that they are prepared for future challenges that may arise with future COVID funding problems.

“We have a template for fundraising and dealing with the future,” Ashaolu said. “You just never know what can happen.”