The SEC announced on Wednesday that it has sent an additional $23 million to each of its 14 member schools to make up for financial losses because of COVID-19.
The conference estimates an average shortfall of $45 million per athletic program.
"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 $322 million distribution will be paid for from future revenues generated through media rights, beginning in 2025. The SEC said it expects its annual distributions in 2025 and beyond to continue to increase even after a portion is used to fund the one-time payment.
A new 10-year deal between the SEC and ESPN will begin in 2024.
The conference said in a statement that each school can use its one-time distribution at its own discretion, albeit with the expectation that it would help "maintain each school's historically high standards for academic, athletic, medical, nutritional and mental health support for their student-athletes and help offset the significant costs associated with COVID testing during the 2020-21 athletic year."
"This immediate financial support will help our athletics programs address some of the current challenges they are facing while also ensuring each program remains well-positioned for future success," Sankey said. "Thanks to years of responsible decision-making and unity, combined with unparalleled success, the SEC and its 14 member universities are uniquely prepared to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and continue building on a remarkable legacy of achievement."
Wednesday wasn't the first time the SEC moved to offset unexpected losses during the pandemic.
When the NCAA's annual distribution fell by 40% last year because of the cancellation of winter and spring championships, the Student Assistance Fund, which helps to pay for things like insurance, clothes, computers and other necessities, was slashed from $87.1 million to $27.3 million.
The SEC's executive committee voted to fund the SAF at the same level as the previous year by using the unrestricted revenues provided by the NCAA.