SEC makes one-time $23M payment to schools to help cover COVID-19 shortfalls

·2 min read

SEC schools are getting a financial boost from the conference.

The SEC announced Wednesday that it had given each of its 14 schools $23 million to help cover any pandemic-induced financial deficits. The conference said that it was using money anticipated from its future media rights deals to finance the payout.

"The extraordinary circumstances produced by the global pandemic have presented colleges and universities with an unprecedented disruption to their programs and budgets," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "This supplemental revenue distribution will help ensure each SEC member will continue to provide high levels of support to its student-athletes."

The SEC said that each school will be allowed to use the money from the payment at its discretion and said that COVID-19 created revenue shortfalls that averaged approximately $45 million at each SEC school. Those shortfalls happened because of the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournaments and the lack of normal ticket sales from athletic events that did happen in the 2020-21 school year. Football and basketball games in the conference were held with limited capacities this past season. 

The conference also said that schools shouldn’t expect to see less money in the future because of the payment. The SEC recently signed new media deals — the football game of the week heads to ESPN from CBS in 2024 — and the increase from the new deals means that schools will still get a revenue increase in 2025 and beyond despite this payment.

And while the payment won't cover expected revenue losses for every school in the SEC, it shows how much of an advantage that the SEC and its schools have over most everyone else. The SEC and the Big Ten are the two richest conferences in college athletics and it's doubtful that any other conferences would be able to make a payment like this without a corresponding cutback.

The SEC said in February of 2020 that it had distributed $45 million to each of its schools because of record conference revenue in 2019-20. While revenues across the conference dipped in 2020-21 because of the pandemic, there's no reason to think that it's more than a short-term blip going forward. 

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