Florida TaxWatch: College football drives local economies

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There’s going to be some empty seats in the swamp Saturday when the University of Florida kicks off it’s season opener against Idaho. With thousands of tickets available UF is looking at the fourth straight season opener it has not sold out. The opponent may have something to do with the lack of excitement, the Vandals offense last year put up lower numbers then the 8-loss Gator,  but regardless of who the opponent is, UF football is a money maker.  As are the Seminoles, Hurricanes and the Owls (Florida Atlantic University).

 A Florida TaxWatch analysis reveals that according to U.S. Department of Education statistics five of the state’s seven collegiate Division one football teams produced a “positive return” – generated more revenue than expenses for their school.

“Florida taxpayers should be cheering on Florida football programs this year, because Florida team wins create value for the state,” said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida Tax Watch.

According to the white paper the impact of an increase in sales tax collections alone is an important benefit for the state of Florida. It found that a Florida State University home football game produces from $1.5 million to $10 million in increase economic activity in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will have at least three top end homes this year with Clemson, Notre Dame and UF.

Among economists, UF has a rivalry raging with Notre Dame.  According to Forbes, the Irish is the only program which contributes more athletic money to academic programs than the University of Florida. After the 2012 season, the UF football program had $49 million left of the $74 million it generated by spending $25 million.

College athletics is a difficult animal for economists to digest as explored here by Sports Illustrated, and here by PBS.

The bottom line for the Seminoles’ 2012 season is $19 million after expenses. The tally for other Florida teams is  $5 million for UM, $4 million for USF, and a half million for FAU. Florida International University broke even and UCF lost $300,000.

Schools get money from merchandise, ticket, concessions, conferences, and boosters.  And again, UF and FSU are national leaders. The Gators’ merchandise sales rank 6 nationwide and FSU is number 8. UCF placed at 57 and USF is at 67.

The Seminoles began their national championship run ranked 21 in sales. The Gator’s successful run through the SEC basketball schedule and success in the NCAA tournament moved them up from 7th.

The FSU title run corresponded with an increased in alumni donations, higher in-state enrollment and higher SAT scores for incoming students. The FSU Foundation reported a nearly $5 million increased in donations and pledges through March 2014. Tax Watch noted a similar situation happened after FSU’s two other national championship years.

The report concludes that college football provides entertainment, money for schools to use for other sports, academic scholarships and increased local economic activity and tax revenue.

The report can be read here.