Editorial: Breaking rivalries in college football bad for merchants

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, September 17, 2013

College football teams leave their conferences and head off for new conferences because they are chasing the TV money.

What’s interesting, though, is it can hurt college-town merchants who like having out-of-towners visit.

Take the case of the University of Missouri bolting from the Big 12 Conference in 2012. Instead of being a school within a five-hour-or-less driving distance of Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State (and Nebraska before 2011) and being a school in the heart of the Big 12, they are on the periphery of the Southeast Conference. The only school within a five-hour driving distance is Arkansas.

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Gone are the rivalries that brought extra visitors to town, not merely the Missouri fans.

To capture some of that revenue, business interests in Kansas City, Mo. are calling for the renewal of the football team’s rivalry with Kansas University, but with the game in Arrowhead Stadium, according to the Lawrence, Kan., Journal-World.

Kansas officials have declined the offer. Kudos to them. After all, having the game in Missouri would only benefit Missouri merchants.

“The game belongs on college campuses, where revenues would benefit Lawrence and Columbia, rather than in a professional stadium in Kansas City,” editorialized the Journal-World.

It would be nice to find a figure on how much local-merchant revenue is lost from broken rivalries in college football. It’s sad that university athletic departments were salivating more for TV revenue than caring about their local economies.

The disloyal state of college football makes a mockery of the sport. Teams disrupt century-old rivalries. Universities don’t stand by the business communities of the towns they are in. The fans are confused over conference changes every season.

We commend schools that have stayed loyal to their conferences and their rivals. As games get harder and harder to find on ever-changing, ever-costly TV packages, we wouldn’t be surprised that in just one generation there will be a serious drop in college football fans. Fewer people will grow up watching the games of their local teams.

As a result, at some point the model that supports the present lunacy — we hope — will begin to decline and perhaps some sanity will enter the ranks of college football in America.