American Football. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

College football bowl games held annually in December and January around the country pump $1.5 billion into the economy, according to a report released Friday by San Diego State University and George Washington University.

The economic impact study of the 41 post-season games was commissioned by the Football Bowl Association (FBA) and conducted by researchers at the Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism at SDSU and the Master of Tourism Administration program at GWU.

The researchers measured the economic impact of the post-season college football games at the end of the 2015 season. Because the size and number of fans varies so widely from one game to the next, the analysis divided the games into four categories: the New Year’s Six, Power Five vs. Power Five, Power Five vs. Group of Five and Group of Five vs. Group of Five.

The average economic impact ranged from more than $93.7 million for the New Year’s Six matchups, including the games that made up the College Football Playoff, to more than $12.6 million for the 13 games matching schools from the Group of Five, teams made up of the smaller conferences.

“Among the different groupings, the findings were very consistent and show that there is a significant economic impact on host cities especially where the bigger games are played,” Carl Winston, program director of SDSU’s Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management said. “It also shows that the FBA is pretty saavy about picking the teams.”

The report, “The Economic Impact of College Bowl Games,” examined the data carefully with the goal that the final product tells the story of the bowl games in a more credible way.

“We spent a lot of time going through the methodology of all the studies and data we collected to ensure consistency,” co-author Lisa Delpy Neirotti, director of the Master of Tourism Administration program at George Washington University said. “We tried to be as consistent and conservative as we could. We’d rather go more conservative. That was our guiding mission.”

One distinction of the report was the way economic impact was defined.

“We defined it as money that comes into that local economy that wouldn’t have come into it otherwise,” SDSU Professor Mark Testa said.

The School of Hospitality & Tourism regularly conducts economic impact studies for a variety of events, including the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls in San Diego.

As a result, the purchase of a ticket by someone living in the area was not considered a reflection of the economic impact. The study sought non-local spectators who made a trip to each area with the specific purpose of attending the bowl game. The data collection was done through an electronic survey or from trained interviewers.

Spectators were asked to supply information that included confirming that the game was the main reason for their travel, if they were staying in a hotel, how many nights they were there, the daily rate, and their average spending on food, shopping and entertainment. By creating different levels to analyze, the study was able to determine that the percentage of lodging costs rose with the size of the event.

Spectators at games between Group of Five schools, the smallest category, spent 23 percent on lodging, while fans who attended New Year’s Six games spent 37 percent.

Winston said the difference was a combination of higher daily rates and longer stays. He pointed out that the New Year’s Six games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day would give spectators a chance to stay for an extra night to celebrate the holiday.

“What we thought would happen did happen,” Winston said of the report. “It confirmed our instincts.”

— City News Service

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