TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One of the biggest games of college football took place Saturday, with the Florida Gators taking on the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, but because of the ongoing pandemic, the game didn’t look the same.
A new report from Florida TaxWatch says the pandemic-hampered college football season paints a bleak picture for the economy.
College football games generate billions for local economies and over $141 million in state and local tax revenue each year in Florida.
“You know, we know locally here in Tallahassee that in 2018-2019, football brought in $51 million in spending in the community,” said Florida TaxWatch Vice President Kyle Baltuch.
Baltuch expects anywhere from 10 to 25 fewer college football games to be played in Florida this year due to a shortened season and possible COVID cancellations.
“And without those games and without that ability to generate that revenue there are some businesses that are going to be in real trouble,” said Baltuch.
Even a 1% drop in leisure and hospitality spending could put more than 5,000 Florida jobs at risk. On the high end, a 10% drop could impact more than 50,000 jobs.
“And really you look at the hospitality sector and a little bit of the retail sector that are going to be most at risk,” said Baltuch. “You go to town for a big game. You’re going to be going out to dinner at your favorite local restaurant. You’re going to be hitting up, at least here in Tallahassee, a Garnet and Gold to pick up your shirt for the year. Those jobs are going to be impacted significantly.”
In addition to the economy, universities could also take a huge hit.
A 25% reduction in revenues could cost teams as much as $70 million, leaving universities strapped for cash.
“You already see universities that are making strifes to protect against it. You look at Florida State boosters. They’ve already reduced jobs and so has the athletic department and many universities around the state are doing exactly the same,” said Baltuch.
Baltuch suggested to make up the money, power conference teams like FSU and UF may decide to forgo costly games against smaller schools in the future.
Athletic scholarships for lower revenue generating sports could also be reduced or cut completely.
And Baltuch estimates the limited crowd and tailgating restrictions for the Georgia-Florida game this weekend could reduce local revenues by about $10 million compared to previous years.