Marketing and Communications

Athletics' Countless Contributions to Community

How do you measure the impact that BGSU Athletics has on the surrounding community? In Ay Ziggy Zoombas?

Director of Athletics Greg Christopher isn’t one to undervalue fan enthusiasm, but injecting some cash into the local economy doesn’t hurt either, and he knows it.

“Our athletic events add $15 million annually as an aggregate to the Wood County economy,” he said. “That was determined by an outside research study, and it was based on people’s spending when they come to our events — including hotels, restaurants, buying gas and shopping in the community.”

Some of that money comes from BGSU fans who grab a bite to eat before heading to a game, but a sizeable portion of that cash flow comes from visiting teams and their supporters who have a meal, peruse stores, and sometimes spend the night in town.

If a single game is a hit for the local economy, a major event — such as the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament games hosted by the University in mid-March — is a jackpot. So are weekends built around sporting contests that draw hordes of University supporters and alumni. Think Homecoming and Falcon Family Weekend.

“Those weekends are huge for us,” said Wendy Stram, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau.

All of the events for pre-collegiate athletes that take place at BGSU sporting facilities help too. Downtown businesses tend to get a boost in particular, Stram said, and some offer special promotions.

Garrett Jones, executive chef and owner of Reverend’s Bar and Grill on East Wooster Street, said game day can be a great day for business.

“A lot of our regulars are women’s basketball fans, so when the games are happening they come in groups before or after,” he said. “On days when there are men’s and women’s games in town, you see a definite change in the downtown atmosphere.”

There are other, immeasurable perks to having a successful athletics program. Some have to do with creating a certain kind of environment for area residents.

“In a traditional college town setting, athletics play a major role. It increases the overall attractiveness of a community,” said Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards. “People enjoy living in places like this because they can do a lot in terms of athletics, theater, music, and continuing education.”

Edwards worked at BGSU for years as vice president of external affairs and now has been invited back by University President Mary Ellen Mazey to be part of a visioning task force to solidify town-gown relations.

“Athletics is an important part of the residential college experience and we’re excited to work with Dick and his team to build upon the rich sports tradition at BGSU and within the community,” said Mazey.

And then there’s the pride factor of rooting for a winning athletics program.

“People take pride in success. Maybe even to some extent you could use the term ‘bragging rights,’” said Edwards, who is a season-ticket holder to football, women’s basketball and hockey.

Historically there has been plenty to brag about: The football team’s 1959 national championship under legendary head coach Doyt Perry; the 1984 national title in hockey; and the women’s basketball team reaching the Sweet Sixteen during the NCAA Tournament in 2007 are some of the more prominent examples.

To Christopher, giving back to the community — by contributing to pride, spirit, and other important aspects — is a big reason why collegiate athletics exist. To strengthen those bonds, each team adopts a charitable cause. “Last year, our student-athletes logged almost 2,000 hours of community service to organizations such as Wood County Special Olympics,” he said.

The department may make up less than 5 percent of the University’s budget, but Athletics is responsible for around 50 percent of the media coverage it receives, and that can be used to accomplish a lot of good, he said.

“Athletics is one of the most visible aspects of any university,” Christopher observed. “And that certainly holds true here at BGSU.”

For proof, look no further than the example of Freddie Barnes. The Falcon wide receiver set the NCAA record for most catches in a football season in 2009 and appeared on national television programs far and wide. Then there’s the rap video made to promote the opening of the Stroh Center and thank everyone who made the state-of-the-art venue a reality. It went viral, landing BGSU on major TV networks and being viewed more than 160,000 times online.

The bottom line may be difficult to quantify, but Christopher said the overall results are obvious.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a pride and spirit effect that athletics has,” he said. “And we’ve got such a loyal group of fans that are so supportive of our teams.”