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Local Communities Benefit from College Football’s Economic Boost


Sep 9, 2023

College football is not just a source of entertainment; it also has a significant economic impact on the regions where teams are located. These events attract fans from far and wide, generating spending and revenue for local businesses. However, the reliance on anchor institutions like higher education and hospitals may be changing as regions become less defined. In the past, these institutions were tied to their respective regions, but with advancements in technology and rising costs, they may become increasingly risky as economic drivers.

The pandemic has further highlighted the shifting dynamics of anchor institutions. Higher education and hospitals have become more dependent on remote learning and telehealth, making their services less community-based. This has had a negative impact on local economies. However, as college athletic conference regions widen, there is potential for a positive effect on local economies. The expansion of these regions could generate more revenue for communities and strengthen the reliance on anchor institutions.

While college football is known for its regional conference games, the redefinition of regions is becoming more apparent. The top football programs are mainly based in the Southeast and Midwest, but demographic changes and the impacts of the pandemic emphasize the continued importance of higher education institutions in these regions. College football draws large crowds each season, boosting spending in the areas where games are held. Conference alignments are also changing, with conferences like the Big Ten and Big 12 expanding beyond their traditional regional identities. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) may soon expand to the Pacific Coast as well.

Economic factors, particularly television revenue, drive the reorganization of college football conferences. The addition of more teams to the postseason increases viewership and opens opportunities for smaller programs. This can disrupt powerhouse programs but significantly increase revenue for the communities involved. Even smaller universities have a significant economic impact as major employers and customers of goods and services in their regions. Colleges are often associated with health systems, further benefiting the community economically.

It’s not just college sports that contribute to local economies; the universities themselves play a significant role. Universities drive economic growth through research, innovation, and the development of human capital. They are major employers and customers of goods and services in their respective regions. Additionally, colleges are often tied to health systems, which provide another source of economic benefit for the community.

According to the Anchor Economy Initiative, anchor institutions are responsible for a significant portion of regional employment, income, and gross value added (GVA) in high reliance regions with smaller populations. Even metro areas with populations between 250,000 and 1 million heavily rely on anchor institutions for economic support. Overall, university and hospital anchor institutions in the US support millions of jobs, billions of dollars in income, and trillions of dollars in GVA.

In conclusion, college football has a significant economic impact on the regions where teams are located. Anchor institutions like higher education and hospitals have traditionally been tied to their regions, but as regions become less defined, there is a need to reassess their role in local economies. The widening of conference regions may create positive economic effects, but it’s important to consider the changing dynamics of anchor institutions and their impact on communities.

By Editor

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