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Businesses cash in on football success

Businesses cash in on football success

Local businesses are starting to see a boost from the success of the University of Missouri-Columbia football team, which is undefeated after five games for the first time in 25 years and is ranked in the Top 25 for the second-straight week

Just ask the sales crew at Tiger Spirit, where the most popular item is a fitted No. 10 jersey matching the one worn by sophomore quarterback Chase Daniel, who is already beginning to break Mizzou passing records.

“We can’t keep enough of them in stock,” Tiger Spirit sales associate Jenny Lyon said. “There has definitely been more enthusiasm than in the last couple of years.”

Following a bout of what the MU athletic department considered surprisingly low attendance, an average of 50,420 spectators at each of the first three home games, nearly 58,800 fans watched the Tigers beat the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday.

Tiger Spirit extended its hours on game day, and co-owner Michelle Dillard said the sales total was “better than expected. We were very pleased.”

There is a direct relationship between the football team’s record and the size of the crowd that descends on downtown Columbia after home games and filters into Tiger Spirit and other stores, restaurants and bars.

The average visitor will spend about $115, according to an MU’s College of Business Research Center, and the occupancy rates at hotels jump 25 to 50 percent when there is a home football game.

But if history is a guide, the real boost for local business would come next year.

“If we continue to have a good year, next year you will see a huge jump in season ticket sales,” said Chad Moeller, the athletic department’s director of media relations.

Attendance rose the year after MU’s 7-4 season in 1998 but fell after three straight losing seasons.

Attendance rose in 2004 after the 8-4 season in 2003, and fell last year after the Tigers went 5-6 in 2004.

Being in the Top 25 means that newspapers across the country will preview Missouri’s football games and write recaps when they are over. Missouri’s game highlights will be on the scoreboard shows on national television.

“It’s great exposure for your program,” Moeller said. “Programs that consistently are in the Top 25 have such an advantage in exposure over the other programs.”

There also could be a long-term impact on MU and, because it is the city’s largest employer, on the local economy. Several studies have shown that an increase in a college football program’s winning percentage causes an increase in enrollment.

But are the Tigers as good as the record and ranking indicates? The combined record of MU’s first five opponents is 6-19, and the only Big 12 opponent, Colorado, has yet to win a game.

The truer tests will come when the football team travels to Texas Tech this week and Texas A&M next week. Both of those teams are currently 4-1 and unranked. The Tigers then play at home Oct. 21 against Kansas State, which is 3-2 after losing to Baylor.

Some prognosticators say the Tigers could be 7-1 or even 8-0 going into what may be the two biggest games of the season, against No. 14 Oklahoma in Columbia on Oct. 28 and at No. 22 Nebraska the following week.
The final home game is against Kansas on
Nov. 25.

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