Down, Set, Hike:
The Economic Impact of College Football
Lawrence C Fagin
This paper provides a practical examination of the economic impact of spectator sports on local economies. Confirming the results of other ex post analyses of sports in general, this paper finds statistically significant evidence that college football games in particular contribute positively to a host’s economy. The analysis of 3 metropolitan areas that play host to big-time college football programs finds that the number of home games played, the winning percentage of the local team, and winning a national championship has a large impact on either employment or personal income in the cities where the teams play. While successful college football teams may bring fame to their alma mater, fortune appears to be another factor in what is a successful university. This paper analyzes the net impacts of college football games on the revenues and the impact of three mid-sized cities in America. The paper addresses the question in the title, but also asks whether is it in the best interest to pimp out your university and justified in encouraging schools do such a thing. In general, the evidence suggests the answer to that question is yes.
College football is among the most popular spectator sports in the United States. Total live attendance at all college football games in 2009 was nearly 38 million fans, which is more than double the attendance of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), or National Hockey League (NHL) during recent seasons. (Baade,Baumann 2008)Average attendance among the 120 National Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1-A football teams, the highest level of collegiate play, totaled more than 46,281 fans per game in 2009 and several teams routinely attract more than 100,000 fans per home game. Outside of auto racing and a small handful of golfing...