College football is big business, and home games can exert substantial economic impacts on the city and surrounding area. For some college towns, however, football is a vital source of revenue, one that exerts a tremendous influence on the local economy.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are six college towns that reap tremendous economic windfalls from successful football teams. These cities, and others like them, rely on college football as an important part of their local economies.
#1 Iowa City, Iowa [map]
Iowa City1, Iowa is first and foremost a college football town. With a total population of roughly 70,000, Iowa City’s main attraction is the University of Iowa and the Hawkeyes. In fact, the Hawkeyes routinely fill Kinnick Stadium with crowds of about the same size as the town’s entire population.
The Hawkeyes have been good for Iowa City and Johnson County, in which it is located. On average, every game draws over 51,0002 visitors to the county.
A pilot study found that the projected economic impact on Johnson County of a single Hawkeyes game was over $14.5 million.3 A seven-game home game schedule was projected to account for over $100.1 million.
#2 State College, Pennsylvania [map]
Penn State University is the flagship4 public university in Pennsylvania, and it is deeply interconnected with State College. PSU’s Nittany Lions gained national renown under long-serving coach Joe Paterno.
Although sales dipped in 2012 in the wake of the infamous scandals, attendance5 at Beaver Stadium has remained at over 90,000. The football program is still vital to the local economy.
A 2009 study conducted by Penn State found that the college’s sports programs brought in over $90 million6 to Centre County. The impact also spills over to other counties, particularly in the form of increased hotel reservations ahead of the games.
#3 South Bend, Indiana [map]
Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish7 is a nationally-renowned team with a storied history going back over a century. Beloved by area residents, Notre Dame football is the economic lifeblood of South Bend. A 2014 estimate8 indicated that the Fighting Irish brought in about $122 million, a quite significant impact on the city and the area.
#4 Ann Arbor, MI [map]
Ann Arbor has been described9 as an idyllic city, known for its rich culture. It also has a spectacular football team, the Wolverines, who are wildly popular.
Some measure of the enthusiasm of Wolverines fans may be given by the fact that Michigan Stadium, known as the “Big House”,10 was built to accommodate 109,000 people and has actually accommodated11 115,000. For reference, Ann Arbor itself has a population of about 114,000.
Not surprisingly, this football program has a huge economic impact on the economy of the city. In 2012-2013 the Wolverines brought in about $82 million.12
#5 Clemson, South Carolina [map]
In 1943, Calhoun, North Carolina, renamed13 itself Clemson, after the local Clemson University. This event speaks volumes about the importance of Clemson University, home of the Clemson University Fighting Tigers, to the town. Today the town has a population of nearly 12,000, while the university has almost 20,000.
Clemson University has an outsize economic impact14 on the entire state, generating $115.3 million in South Carolina. On average, a Clemson Tigers home football game is responsible for sustaining 198 jobs and producing $10.3 million in total output, $733,000 in net state revenue, and $542,000 in net local government revenue.
#6 Eugene, Oregon [map]
Eugene is also home to Nike17, co-founded by Oregon alumnus Phil Knight. Another claim to fame is that the film Animal House was shot at the University of Oregon and in the surrounding area.
The Ducks are big business in Eugene. The University has a very close relationship18 with donor Nike, one it uses to recruit talent.
One University of Oregon economist found that the Athletic Department’s direct spending in 2011-2012 accounted19 for $115.3 million worth of economic activity in Lane County, as well as $42.5 million in household earnings and 1,028 jobs. It was also responsible for $79.2 million worth of new economic activity in Lane County from outside sources.
These six examples are by no means an all-inclusive list of college towns whose economies are substantially impacted by a home football game. A few other examples include Auburn, Alabama, home of Auburn University; College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, and Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).