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Gophers’ top coaches take pay cuts to save department $450,000

Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon gives instructions to his team during a timeout against South Carolina during the second set of a match in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championships at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Minnesota beat South Carolina in three sets, 25-12, 25-15, 25-15. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press1 / 5
Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Richard Pitino reacts during the first half against the Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center Jan. 9. The Gophers will face Rutgers on Sunday, Jan. 19. Rutgers is 12-0 at home this season. Mike Carter / USA TODAY Sports2 / 5
Athletic director Mark Coyle (right) hired Bob Motzko to coach the Minnesota Gophers men's hockey program in the spring of 2018. Courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics3 / 5
Minnesota Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen tries to motivate her players as they take on Ohio State in the first quarter of an NCAA Women’s basketball game at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Dec. 31, 2019. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press 4 / 5
University of Minnesota football head coach P.J. Fleck talks with an official during a regular season football game for the Golden Gophers. (Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota.)5 / 5

ST. PAUL — The Gophers athletic department’s highest earners will take voluntary 10% pay cuts for the first six months of fiscal year 2021 to help offset budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The list includes athletics director Mark Coyle, football coach P.J. Fleck, men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen, men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko and volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. This group also volunteered in April to forego a week’s worth of pay through the fiscal year ending in June; that saved the department $168,000, the school said.

This new cut will start in July and would tentatively end in December. It will save the department an estimated $450,000, the U said. Fleck is the salary leader of the group, scheduled to make $4.5 million in 2020. Pitino was set to make a total of $2.4 million.

“I want to thank Lindsay, P.J., Richard, Hugh and Bob for taking a voluntary reduction in pay,” Coyle said in a statement. “This is the second voluntary reduction for all of us since April, and I appreciate their dedication to Minnesota and willingness to help in a time of financial uncertainty.”

Coyle told the university’s Board of Regents on Friday that COVID-19 caused a $4 million deficit in the department by April and estimated a “double-digit” reduction in the operating budget through June 30.

Without a known restart date for sports, the U estimated anywhere a loss anywhere from $10 million to $75 million for an annual budget that was $123 million in 2020.

Coyle said the department has implemented hiring and spending freezes and has seen some savings from travel and recruiting expenses. Future cuts could include department-wide pay cuts and a reduction in teams within the department.

The U’s presentation to the regents pointed out that Minnesota has the eighth-biggest budget in the 14-team Big Ten, but has the fourth-most sports at 25. Coyle wanted to stress how efficient the U already has been with its finances.

“There is no doubt that everything is on the table,” Coyle told reporters after his Regents meeting last Friday. “We will have to take a look at how we run our program and have to make decisions as we move forward.”