3/29/2012: I’m no economist, so I don’t like to make forecasts, but Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier are and they’ve got an interesting piece out: What Would the End of Football Look Like?
… This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn’t worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it’s mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.
Not to mention the rapes. Cowen’s earlier post raises the question of why watching football games increases assaults and domestic violence, while watching violent movies reduces violence. Complements and substitutes is how those economists put it. Meanwhile the Chronicle has a story on declining interest in college basketball – apparently it’s not just at Oregon:
More than 70 Division I men’s basketball programs—about one out of every five—have seen their regular-season attendance fall by 20 percent or more over the past four seasons, a Chronicle analysis has found. And while many colleges have had significant gains, the declines have left big budget holes in some athletic departments and could lead to major changes in the game.
The falloff has been particularly sharp in the Pacific-12 Conference, where fan support has dropped 14 percent since 2009. Arizona State, Washington State, and UCLA have all seen their home attendance decline by more than a third in the past four years. Arizona State, with an arena that seats over 14,000 fans, attracted an average of just 5,411 per game this season.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, historically one of the strongest basketball leagues, has had a 7-percent slide since 2009, with average attendance falling below 10,000 fans a game for the first time in recent history. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are both off by more than 2,500 spectators per game from 2009, and even Duke University has seen interest in its rabid student section wane.
They attribute the disinterest to the increase in other entertainment options.