• Commentary

Big Economic Impact: Exploring the Big 12’s Big Decision

The Big 12 Conference has a Big upcoming decision on playing during the pandemic. ISEG’s Executive Director shares insights on the Economic Impact.

It is now seemingly down to the Big 12 members to decide the fate of college football this fall. What will be the economic impact? How did we get here? It is important to look back.

It started off with hope. While most understood a return to “normal” would prove impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic, some semblance of a college football season would be held. The alternative was grim, not only from a moral stand point but also economically. In other words, the economic impact on communities was significant.

But then on August 8th the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to postpone all fall sports, including football. On August 10 the Mountain West conference became the second. Then on August 11 things got even more dramatic.

The Big Ten became the first Power Five league to postpone all fall sports. Later that same day, the Pac-12 announced the same decision. The SEC and ACC both released statements reassuring they were still planning to hold a season. However, they certainly left enough room for maneuvering. The remaining power conference’s decision suddenly had a captive audience: an entire nation.

Enter the Big 12: A Potential Tipping Point

While the SEC and ACC both issued statements affirming their desire to move forward with a fall season, that commitment could very well waver. Especially if the final Power 5 conference voted to forgo the 2020 fall season. Per Sports Illustrated reporting, if the Big 12 cancels their fall 2020 season then the ACC would likely follow suit. Would the SEC? They would face mounting social pressure. After all, if four of the other top five conferences canceled, why hadn’t they? It seems unlikely the SEC would be able to move forward and the economic impact would grow.

Individual school’s home markets will also sharply feel the impact of the Big 12 conference’s decision. The lost economic activity would be significant. More unrecoverable revenue lost forever, from college towns merchants that rely on gameday traffic to bars and restaurants which draw crowds throughout the region. As a result, there is great interest in what the Big 12 conference ultimately decides.

Expert Analysis on Economic Impact from ISEG

On August 11, 2020, Dr. Ted Bolema, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Growth (ISEG), was quoted as an economics expert in the article “Kansas College Towns Await Potentially Disastrous’ Verdict on Big 12 Fall Sports” by Noah Taborda in the Kansas Reflector.

Dr. Bolema is quoted:

“There will be a very negative impact on local business, both from spending by visitors traveling to college towns, who often stay overnight and by residents who spend more than they often would on game day,” said Ted Bolema, executive director of the Institute for Economic Growth at Wichita State University. No football also means no televised games broadcasting images of the area. The loss of game day camera crews could impact exposure and cause longer-lasting issues for tourism. Bolema estimated losses easily in the millions for both Kansas Big 12 college towns.”

Noah Taborda
Kansas Reflector

Read the whole article on the potential scenarios and full economic impact of the Big 12’s upcoming decision at KansasReflector.com.