COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The excitement of the Gamecocks pre-season poll rankings may stretch far beyond the football field and into local cash registers according to professors with USC's Sport and Entertainment Management.
With the highest pre-season ranking in USC history, Sport and Entertainment Graduate Director Dr. Tom Regan says he's heard about the excitement from all over the country. "I've had calls from Philadelphia, London, Denver, LA, Chicago already saying 'Hey doc, it's time for me to come back and see the Gamecocks this year,'" said Dr. Regan.
Regan's job is to break down the dollars and cents raked in by USC Athletics.
"When I first came in 1991, the USC athletic budget was around 19 million, Carolina's athletic budget now is closing in on 90 million," said Dr. Regan.
Regan did a full study of the economic impact of gamecock sports in the 2006-2007 school year. He says back then a football weekend could bring in $6 million easy and that number's even higher for the big rivalry game."The Clemson/Carolina game that year, the economic benefit was $8 million for that one game," said Dr. Regan.
Regan says according to a travel pattern study, nearly ten Midlands counties experience the financial impact and with the best pre-season ranking in USC football history, he's expecting the impact to be even bigger.
"There's no question that it will be, the prices have gone up, the YES program has been implemented at South Carolina, and you're starting to see gamecock village and the additional build-up there," added Regan.
Columbia hotels say as the athletic program has grown, so has demand and the price of rooms. "This hotel used to be a holiday inn and now it's a Courtyard," said Kacy Gloweinka with Courtyard Marriot near USC. "The increase in rate has been pretty substantial."
Dr. Regan says the more the Gamecocks win, the more money that's brought in. "It puts people into Five Points, into the Vista into the local entertainment districts, because they're in a much better mood when they win," he added.
Win or lose, history has shown Gamecock fans should turn out in full force. Just ask WIS' Rick Henry, who has been covering the games for 32 years. "In 1999 the team went 0-11, there were three home games where they had over 80,000fans. Last year, they go 11-2 there were three home games where they had over 80,000 fans. So win or lose, the fans are going to show up," said Henry.
Dr. Regan is scheduled to complete another full survey on the economic impact of Gamecock Athletics this school year.
Regan says he expects Clemson's No. 8 ranking to pull in big bucks in the Upstate, as well. This is the first time that two South Carolina teams have ended up in the top 10 of pre-season football polls.