It’s a highly unusual year because the University of South Carolina and Clemson are both highly ranked in the coaches’ pre-season football poll, with USC at number 7 and Clemson number 8.
“Two schools in the top 10 at the pre-season, outside the state of Florida, just doesn’t happen very often,” says Dr. Tom Regan, associate professor in USC’s Department of Sport and Retail Management. He has studied the economic impact of USC’s football program on the state, and he says having two teams doing so well means more money for the state.
“One of the things, it brings a national presence,” he says of USC’s high ranking. “And then what it also does is those fans that are non-traditional Carolina fans, that are outside of it, the buzz that’s occurred because of that national ranking brings attention back to the University of South Carolina, the Gamecocks’ athletics.”
The teams’ schedules should also help. Last year, Clemson started the season with a game at a neutral site, the Georgia Dome, against Auburn. This year, the Tigers open at home against 5th ranked Georgia. A recent study by the Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson found that each home game means $733,000 in net revenue for the state’s economy and $542,000 for the local economy.
ESPN’s Game Day will be in Clemson for the Georgia game, and Regan says that also means more money. He says it’s difficult to estimate exactly how much, but Game Day brings fans into town earlier, so they end up spending more money. He thinks a visit by Game Day could easily mean an additional $500,000 to the local economy, when the show comes to Columbia.
USC starts the year at home in a nationally televised game against North Carolina. Regan says the USC-Clemson game and SEC games bring in about $8 million each to the Columbia economy, while a non-conference game for USC brings in about $6.5 million. Even though North Carolina is a non-conference opponent, he thinks USC’s national ranking and the attention it’s generating will make the UNC game more like a conference game. “I would say it’s about a $1.5 million economic kick.”
It’s not just hotels and restaurants that are getting an economic kick. Justin Evans, co-owner of the Gamecock Stop, which sells USC clothing and merchandise, says, “Year-to-date we’re about 40 percent over where we were last year, in terms of foot traffic and people coming in but also in sales.”
Regan says, “I haven’t seen anything like this since I’ve been at Carolina for 22 years.”