AUSTIN (KXAN) — Conversations with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) or any other conference can now begin after the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma’s announced Monday that the schools will not renew their grant of rights agreements with the Big 12, starting the process of splitting ties with the conference.
The impact of UT moving conferences will stretch much further than the university, likely providing economic benefits for the local economy.
With each home football game drawing in around 100,000 fans, senior project manager for AngelouEconomics Dr. Matt Patton says, “Texas Athletics itself is kind of an economic juggernaut, and it’s going to have a big impact, regardless of what conference it goes into.”
AngelouEconomics last studied UT Athletics’ economic impact in 2015. At the time, the group estimated that sports at UT pumped out more than $728 million annually into the local and state economies.
“Visitor spending was almost $282 million annually,” Patton recalled. “Just tailgating at UT home games was right around $33 million.”
He’s confident spending has risen since then — and he expects the local economy to be in prime position for a boost if Texas moves to a conference like the SEC. The SEC is rich in tradition with loyal fans that will travel and tailgate in cities across the conference, which will benefit Austin businesses.
“When we start talking about fan bases, really passionate, in other conferences, coupled with the excitement of coming to a new city, a city like Austin, where everybody wants to be all the time, we can expect really large crowds to come,” Patton said. “Even if they’re not attending the game — spending money in our economy, hotels, restaurants, bars, everything else you can think of, grocery stores for all of your tailgating supplies.”
He points to the same circumstances happening in Lincoln, Nebraska, when the University of Nebraska realigned from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2011.
“In the Big Ten, other member institutions saw that as a really nice opportunity to go visit another city and football supportive community,” Patton said, “And the University of Texas is on another level as far as that, especially in terms of national reach. So, we would anticipate a lot of people wanting to come to see what the Austin and UT football experience is all about.”
Patton says one study done nearly a decade ago after Texas A&M left the Big 12 and moved to the SEC estimated that College Station would see an extra $23 million in economic impact — thanks to realignment.
He expects Austin would bring in a lot more new revenue than College Station.
“I’m not going to speak about which one’s better or anything like that,” Patton said smiling. “But there are many more opportunities to spend money in a city like Austin.”