COVID testing puts a strain on the Gardner-Webb athletic budget as they also look to fill out the football schedule

COVID testing puts a strain on the Gardner-Webb athletic budget as they also look to fill out the football schedule
Gardner-Webb football (Source: Wimberly, Nate)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - COVID testing is putting a strain on a lot of FCS football programs around the country including at Gardner-Webb.

As one of four teams in the Big South Conference that plan to play football in the fall, the Runnin’ Bulldogs athletic department is facing the prospects of paying between $350,000 and $400,000 for testing in the fall. That is a significant hit, but it is what has to be done to keep student-athletes, coaches, and staff safe from COVID-19.

“Nobody’s budget is built for that,” said Chuck Burch, who is the vice president of athletics at Gardner-Webb. “I don’t care what level you are at.”

The big question now is how do they offset the costs?

Guarantee games with Power 5 schools could be a quick way to help out. These games can generate thousands to millions of dollars that could more than just pay for testing for this fall sports season.

Gardner-Webb already has one “big money game” on the schedule for this year as they will play at Georgia Tech on September 12th. Provided the Yellow Jackets make the Runnin’ Bulldogs their one non conference game this season.

On Wednesday, the ACC announced that they will play an 11 game season. They will play 10 conference games and 1 non conference contest. In most cases, the Yellow Jackets would play longtime rival Georgia. But on Thursday, the SEC announced that they will play a 10 game all conference schedule. So no Georgia vs Georgia Tech game in 2020. So there is still a chance for GW to keep their date with Tech.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs already have 3 open dates on their calendar as Limestone, Hampton, and Monmouth have decided to not play football in the fall due to the pandemic.

Robert Morris, who recently was added to the Big South for football and will begin play in 2021, has some openings this season and could be put onto the GW schedule for this season.

That leaves a couple of open dates to possibly add yet another big money game for Gardner-Webb.

“I’ve spoken to a number of FBS programs that are being impacted by this as well,” said Burch. “They’re losing games. They’re looking at us and asking are you interested in this? I got my list of who we can reach out to. So we are working to try and put something together. It may not be a competitively friendly schedule as what we had in place going into the year, but it would be a schedule that the kids would enjoy.”

Some might questions with times being what they are right now, why not shut the program down and come back when things improve with the pandemic?

“Those events bring energy and life to our campus and those are rallying things,” said Burch. “The competitive aspect is important too. We think it is important to have it and we’re going to do what we can to have the season.”

Gardner-Webb will have their first day of football practice on August 5th. It will be the first practice for new head coach Tre Lamb.

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