Tim Lester

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Pandemic-related restrictions force Western Michigan to schedule a new season-opening opponent

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The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted the 2020 season for Western Michigan football.

Western Michigan was scheduled to open the upcoming football season against Colgate on Sept. 4.  However, the Patriot League, Colgate’s conference, mandated late last month that all of its member schools not be permitted to travel by air or stay overnight in another locale.  As the distance between Hamilton, NY, to Kalamazoo, Mich., is nine-plus hours, that opener was certainly in jeopardy.

This week, Western Michigan confirmed that it will now open the 2020 college football season against Stony Brook.  The game will still be played Sept. 4 at Waldo Stadium, the football home of the Broncos.

“We are looking forward to opening the 2020 season with Stony Brook,” WMU head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “We know coronavirus has changed, and will keep changing, how we operate this season. We will continue to operate with an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff members, fans and WMU community.”

It should be noted that Syracuse is also supposed to open its home schedule Sept. 19 against Colgate.  It’s unclear if that game will be played, although distance certainly isn’t as much of an issue as it was for Western Michigan.

WMU is coming off a second consecutive 7-6 season under Lester, who will be entering his fourth season with the Broncos.  That 2019 campaign also included narrowly missing out on a berth in the MAC championship game.

Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester to take a 25% cut in pay

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The Western Michigan head football coach is set to take a financial hit. And a bigger hit than those that have come before him.

WMU revealed Monday that the athletic department will make cuts in its budget that will total in excess of $6 million because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As part of that cost-reduction measure, Western Michigan head football coach Tim Lester will take a 25% cut in pay.

Out of all the FBS schools to announce salary reductions, Lester’s is easily the largest.

Lester made $800,000 in 2019 according to the USA Today coaching salary database.  If the reduction were to last an entire year, the coach would lose $200,000.

Lester’s coaching staff will take a similar pay cut as well.

“We have done an extensive review in all of the areas we do. Our revenue, our expenses, what comes in from the NCAA,” athletic director Kathy Beauregard said. “Our world kind of changed, so not only did we have the normal university reductions, but also not a lot of ability to receive the resources that we were getting from the NCAA, from the MAC and from the different revenue sources that we had.

Western Michigan is the second MAC school to make such a cut.  The other is Northern Illinois.

Below is a partial list of FBS programs that have initiated various cost-cutting measures for athletic department personnel, including coaches:

Additionally, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who reportedly made north of $5 million a year ago, is taking a 20% pay cut.  Scott’s Big 12 counterpart, Bob Bowlsby, announced pay cuts for himself and the conference’s staff.