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Gridiron commerce: State championships equal economic growth

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Gridiron commerce: State championships equal economic growth DouglasNow.com file photo

The news of the month, and the year, to be honest, is the Coffee Trojans’ first-ever state football championship. It’s one of the biggest local stories I’ve ever covered and it’s had the most profound effect on our community of anything that I can think of in the last 10 years.



Overall, a winning football season has a positive effect on the community, particularly the school system. I remember listening to Jimmy Roberts give a presentation on the history of Coffee football a few years ago. A former administrator in the school system (and the Trojans’ long-time stadium announcer), he commented that when the football team did well, the school year always seemed smoother.



I can certainly see where that would be the case. But in terms of overall community impact, what exactly does a “good” season mean – and in this case, by a good season I mean a state championship season?



We’ve had some really solid football seasons over the last 10 years. I know when people talk about Coffee football, they like to go back to the early 1980s and mention those names that have since become local legends. But the glory days of the Trojans are right now. The last decade has been the best decade of Coffee’s history. We’ve won more games, made deeper playoff runs, and been more recognizable on statewide than ever before.



The only thing that eluded us was a state title. We can now scratch that off the list.



Should we expect something other than a championship banner hanging in the gym and a trophy sitting atop the trophy case? Believe it or not but the answer is “Yes.”



Though the study we are about to discuss wasn’t conducted in Georgia, it’s findings should be applicable to our state. Several years ago, Rex J. Pjesky of West Texas A&M University published a paper titled “Friday Night Lights, Monday Morning Growth: The Impact of Successful High School Football Teams on Local Economic Development” in The Southwestern Economic Review. The paper looked at 34 small communities in the Texas Panhandle and studied the economic impact successful high school football teams had on their local economies.



We aren’t going to get into the minutiae of the paper; at 11 pages, it’s not that terribly long. However, there are lots of variables and equations that Pjesky used to measure what happens economically in a small town following a state football championship. The communities in the study were smaller than Douglas (1,000 to 5,000 in population) but I believe we can draw some of the same conclusions that Pjesky does.



He hypothesized that the sense of community pride that follows a state title in a rural town “is a much more important factor in community development and vitality in a small town relative to a large town.” He mentioned early in his paper that a 2007 study demonstrated that asset prices diminish in countries after they are eliminated from the World Cup. That, he says, shows that “economic processes can be impacted by non-economic events which affect the mood of the people.”



The primary metric that Pjesky investigated was sales tax collections. He developed a few equations utilizing sales tax collections, wins by the football team, distance from a metro area, and other variables.



The conclusion that Pjesky came to shows that a state football championship leads to a positive economic impact on the local community for two years. Pjesky writes the following: The results of model one suggest that football success has a significant short term impact of the development of small communities. Specifically, model one suggests a winning football team increases economic activity in a small town two years after success of the football team.” Pjesky adds that even though his study focused on small communities, it is reasonable to expect that larger towns would also experience economic growth, though it may harder to study: “But there is no reason that the mechanism that relates community pride to economic development through successful sports teams would not work in a similar or identical way in larger economies. If that is true, the result of this paper, that winning on the field at best creates short term economic benefits for small towns, could be transferred to larger cities.”



It’s hard to overstate the importance of high school football in rural Texas. Likewise, it’s equally hard to overstate the importance of high school football in rural Georgia. The two areas face many of the same struggles economically and turn to sports, particularly football, as a way of dealing with the harsh realities of life in their communities. Therefore, I believe it is reasonable to expect there to be some positive economic impact from the Coffee Trojans’ first state championship in school history.



And that is more good news for Douglas and Coffee County.

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