How is the economy affecting high school football? Here are some early indicators

It’s still too early to tell how the economy is affecting high school football and whether things are better or worse than last year. But it is important to measure, since football programs generate a large portion of revenue for athletic programs at many schools.

It’s early but there have been some good signs — and not-so-good signs — out there so far:

  • Buford athletics director Dexter Wood is encouraged by slight increases in corporate sponsorships and booster club memberships, along with taking “huge crowds to games at Gainesville and Carver-Columbus. Not so good? Attendance for Buford’s home opener against Westminster was smaller than normal, which affected concession sales. Also, advertising sales in the football program are down about 10 percent. Said Wood, “Overall, we are pleased that even during tough economic times, that we are doing well. We have not had to cut budgets, programs or equipment needs for our sports.”
  • Creekside coach Johnny White said attendance is steady, with the team nearly a selling out against Tri-Cities last week. Not so good? “I think that businesses helping out programs have almost been too slow, at best,” White said. “Because it’s very hard to get money from franchises such as McDonald’s and Walmart, most of our efforts usually go to small businesses. Some of them just don’t have to the money to advertise because they are not sure if our students will spend money with them. We all have to do a better job of making sure that our community supports the businesses that support us.”
  • Lovejoy raised enough money to go off to preseason camp for the first time in three years.
  • Harrison coach David Hines said the team sold out of all reserved tickets. Harrison has also found some new sponsors but lost some longtime business friends of the program. Said Hines, “It has been difficult to find [sponsors]. We had some very supportive backers that had to cut back or not donate at all this year.”
  • Forest Park coach JaJuan Wright said attendance for the home opener against Banneker was two or three times larger than any game last year.
  • Parkview had its largest home crowd in three years against Stephenson, even though the game was on local TV. Said Parkview coach Cecil Flowe, “Taking in a football game is still a cheap entertainment night. A movie costs $7 for kids and $10 for adults and then a Coke and popcorn is another $15. At a game, tickets are $4-$5 for students and $7 for adults, while [food] is still cheaper than going to a movie or college game and pro game.” Parkview athletic director Mark Whitley is concerned over decreases in booster club memberships and fund-raising. “That has become the last priority on the list [to many parents],” Whitley said.
  • Mt. Pisgah, aided by excitement surrounding the team’s Aug. 27 debut in its new stadium, drew the largest crowd in school history. Said Mt. Pisgah coach Doug Dixon, “We ordered more concession supplies than normal but we were sold out of drinks before halftime. Luckily we were able to get more to accommodate the halftime rush.”
  • Holy Innocents’, like several other private schools, has seen some athletes leave school over financial concerns. Holy Innocents’ athletic director Ruth Donahoo said, “We are still feeling the effects in that we have players who have transferred to the local public school because of the economy and the ability to afford private school tuition.”
  • Shiloh may have had its best gate in four or five years against South Gwinnett last weekend. Not so good? “Parents are still struggling to meet their booster club obligations [player dues],” said Shiloh athletic director Michael Nicholson.
  • Mt. Zion-Jonesboro has drawn more fans, which may be connected to selling advance tickets at school for a reduced price. “Personally, I believe this is more of a sign of promotion on the part of the school rather than a positive sign of the economy,” said Mt. Zion athletic director Jason Battles. The team also had five pre-game meals donated, compared to none for last year.

Now it’s YOUR TURN. What are the small signs you are seeing at high school football games this year? Please post below.

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12 comments Add your comment

[...] How is the economy affecting high school football? Here are some … [...]


September 16th, 2010
4:14 pm

If you win games, fans will come. If you are Northside High School in Warner Robins, fans will come. The economy affects high school football in small ways outside of a major city. In the overwhelming number of football programs, that really matter, community support is a lifelong commitment that is not signficantly swayed by the overall economy. At the end of the day, people in communities like Kingsland, Valdosta, LaGrange, Warner Robins, Thomasville, Waycross, Statesboro, Carrollton, and many others are going to spend their Friday nights watching high school kids play football. It is a way of life!


September 16th, 2010
5:01 pm

Michael, I am sure the economy has effected Lowndes also, but we did take a pretty good crowd to McEachern. At home we sold 4736 season reserved seats at $8 each, 1493 season passes to students, and we sell between 1200 and 1500 general admission tickets Friday nights, plus general admission tickets to our opponent’s fans. Our Touchdown club has several membership “levels” ($750, $500, $200, $100 and family memberships are $50.) We have several thousand Touchdown Club members. The various membership levels get first opportunity in descending order to purchase away game tickets, such as the Valdosta game, which is always a sell out, and playoff games on the road. Our TD Club has the concessions at home games and our band sells the Game Program. It is the exact opposite at Valdosta High where the TD club sells the Programs and the Band has the game concessions. The Td Club pays for summer camp, the annual banquet, rings when we win state, trophies, special meals and cookouts for the team, and assists the team in other things when requested by the coach.

Where the economy really affects us is when we travel. It now takes 22 school buses plus one semi for our band, three buses for our players, and a bus for the cheerleaders. It is sometimes hard to get enough buses running to take kids home from school when the football team is on the road. We often rent available buses from neighboring school systems for that. The cost of fuel for all those buses, plus paying the drivers is pretty high. Our band rented motel rooms for the McEachern game because of having to give the drivers the required rest time before the trip back. That seemed to be cheaper than hiring relief drivers.


September 16th, 2010
9:17 pm

Oops, when I said each season ticket is $8, I meant per home game. Since we usually have 6 or 7 home games including the pre-season scrimmage game, which we sell the same tickets for, that amounts to $48 to $56 per season ticket sold. Because of the economy our total reserved seat ticket sales are down approx 10% from the last two years. Thats a lot of money. 600 season tickets at $56 each. Especially when you consider that affects sales at the concession stands, programs, and clothing items at our TD Club store nearthe concession booth.


September 17th, 2010
8:19 am

i remember at westlake they couldnt afford pads for us all the pads was from 10 years o.k and we went to the playoffs for the 1st time n 4 years and no one showed up to our game smh but sale in donuts help westlake out last year


September 17th, 2010
9:37 am

I can’t imagine players have to pay a fee to play but I’ve heard it is a necessity at some schools. I agree with what EagleNationRising said about school spirit and fan support and I think it is true in most parts of Georgia. If a team wins, people will come and will get involved. University Presidents know all too well how important a winning football team is to their school. Smart Superintendents and Principals know it too. Why else would Georgia State, Valdosta State, West Georgia and others have started football programs? They saw how it increased the enrollment and financial support at Georgia Southern!


September 17th, 2010
10:35 am

We’ve seen a decrease in local business support because we are in a rural county. The QB club used to raffle a car donated by a local used car lot, but they stopped a couple years ago due to the economy. Space for signage around the stadium is sold out, but took a lot longer this year to sell. The new play clocks were paid for from donations from businesses in Florida and other counties. The band boosters deal primarily with local businesses for t-shirts, insurance, and other items. The athletic and music departments are also cutting back. Coaches are driving the busses for away games, and all of the players are not going. School busses were not provided for band camp to save money in the music budget. We, the members of the community, have to support the businesses that support sports if we want to continue the level of excellence we are used to in this state.


September 17th, 2010
2:48 pm

I played in South Georgia in the 60’s. Jr high and B Teams played with equipment form the 50’s. In Jr High you were lucky to have a helmet with a face mask. During the varsity years we used shoes/equipment from previous years until it fell apart. Helmets were refurbished each year by the coaches. If there was enough money the manufacturer did it. The coaching staff was much smaller. The word “fancy or flashy” didn’t exist. Perhaps the schools need to revisit the games real purpose. Instead of trying to provide equipment and facilities on par with a D-1 college or professional team. Maybe they should just a venue for young men to just live the experience. Most will never go to the next level anyway. This sounds more like an Atlanta issue where you have to recruit players, thus have the huge weight rooms and state of the art everything. In smaller towns all over the state we play with the players that are dealt us and play with what we have. It’s called plain ole Football.


September 17th, 2010
5:03 pm

Here at Camden life is good


September 18th, 2010
8:34 am

I have been to 3 games. South @ Lowndes-great crowd, quite a few South supporters made trip to Valdosta. More South people than Central Gwinnett people @ Mountain View game the next week. Brookwood @ Collins Hill-disappointing crowd. Of course, outside of metro Atlanta, communities revolve around the high schools. I agree with Coach Flowe, no better value on a Friday night-cheaper than a movie!


September 18th, 2010
9:28 am

Just curious, what if a parent cant pay player fees. Is his play time affected?

Peachtree Ridge

September 20th, 2010
10:18 am

Heck yes it matters…unless he is 6′2 220 and runs a 4.4 in the forty…..