Texas Christian University’s victory over Michigan on December 31 propelled the Horned Frogs to the college football national championship playoff final for the first time in program history.
Regardless of the outcome of Monday night’s game, Fort Worth will emerge victorious due to the opportunity to present itself to a national audience.
The economic impact of the TCU season is already being felt. Fort Worth hoteliers and retailers observing and showing increased interest in horned frogs have noticed an influx of people and dollars into the area.
As Fort Worth looks forward to its final game on January 9, the lasting impact of TCU’s appearance in the national championship will be felt for years to come, said Brandom Gengelbach, President and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
“I think TCU has a lot in common and really is the epitome of Fort Worth. This is a small university. We have a small community,” Gengelbak said. “It’s very authentic and true to themselves and who they are. They hit well above their weight academically and in the sports arena. And I think the same can be said for Fort Worth – we hit above our weight.”
The enrollment at the university is the smallest among the schools participating in the Big 12 Conference, with just under 12,000 students. The University of Texas at Austin has almost 52,000 students, followed by the Texas Institute of Technology with over 40,000 students.
According to Bob Jameson, President and CEO of Visit Fort Worth, TCU home games increase hotel revenue by approximately 35% and increase occupancy. Some of the busiest weekends in Fort Worth involve TCU home games, homecomings, and family weekends, he said.
Jameson said that if the Horned Frogs became champions, season ticket sales would increase and national awareness of Fort Worth and the university would increase. About 21 million people have tuned in to watch the Fiesta Bowl, and he expects more viewers for the national championship game.
Visit Fort Worth has created a list of businesses hosting parties in the area.
“It was a wonderful story of determination, hard work, perseverance and leadership that really got people’s attention,” Jameson said. “So all of this suggests that the games will be more attended next year.”
According to the university’s sports department website, TCU football generated over $2 million in revenue from ticket sales alone in 2020, with an average attendance of 53,580 per game. According to the US Department of Education, the football department’s total revenue for the 2020–2021 season was about $38.7 million.
TCU officials are already seeing an impact on the school that can, at least anecdotally, be attributed to the football team’s success. While the admissions cycle is still in its early stages, TCU says early decision applications from students who say TCU is their best bet has risen over 31% from the previous year.
According to Meriann Roth, TCU’s Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communications, the total number of applications has also increased, with visits to the TCU website increasing “exponentially, especially on matchdays and weekends”.
“Amazing athletics definitely gives us an opportunity to show people what TCU is all about, from team spirit to global academic impact,” she said.
According to Allen Wallach, CEO of PAVLOV Advertising, which works with TCU’s sports program, TCU’s 2011 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin during the previous undefeated season resulted in new student applications from Southern California.
“TCU’s participation in the Nationals opens up a much broader scope for both student and student-athlete recruitment,” he said.
PAVLOV data shows that TCU v. Michigan was the second most popular search term on Google as of December 30, Wallach said.
TCU’s nationwide reach has exceeded 1,223 unique TV news segments across the US, as well as thousands of print and online articles in leading publications, he said.
“How can you put a dollar figure on this type of exposure?” Wallach said.
Anything that boosts Fort Worth’s national reputation is good for the city economically, said Jameson of Visit Fort Worth.
“That’s a lot of eyes for two to three hours who are periodically reminded that TCU is in Fort Worth,” he said. “So if Fort Worth wasn’t known before, it might have planted the seeds.”
In 2021, Fort Worth received 9.4 million visitors, which equates to a $2.6 billion local economic impact. According to Visit Fort Worth, sports tourism alone generated $100 million in 2021.
Fort Worth Mayor Matty Parker said TCU’s overall impact means job creation, economic development and innovation.
“TCU has brought Fort Worth back to national attention with this incredible football season, Fiesta Bowl win and upcoming national championship game,” she said in a statement. “TCU’s impact goes beyond the veneer of athletics and draws crowds of visitors to our city.”
The timing of the team’s success could not have been better timed as the private school prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2023-24.
The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and TCU will travel to California in February to celebrate the anniversary – another opportunity to introduce Fort Worth to the market. The Los Angeles event follows a similar event in New York in October. Both are part of the school’s anniversary celebrations.
TCU alumnus and fan Mark Mowrer was working at the school when it began showing off its football prowess with future Hall of Famer running back LaDamian Tomlinson and regular attendance at bowling games in the early 2000s. The success of the football team earned the school a diploma in sports broadcasting, said Moorer, who at the time worked at the communications school.
“It was a pretty tangible way that the athletic program also benefited the academic side of the school,” he said. “It was a very popular degree.”
The sports broadcast program also allowed TCU to promote itself on the West Coast through the Mountain West Conference from 2005 to 2011.
“TCU was able to provide a lot of content for the Mountain West network because we had this sports broadcast program and the students got the experience and people got to know more about the school,” said Moorer, who is now a corporate account manager at Spectrum Enterprise.
TCU’s unbeaten streak during the regular season has brought huge injections into the local economy, especially in the hospitality and retail industries, Gengelback said.
Gengelback noted that TCU has long played a role in attracting out-of-state students, especially California, since the Rose Bowl. These students often stay after graduation and contribute to local economic development, he said.
“We will have more talent here that companies can access as they grow. It also means more talent will be able to attract new companies that want access to that talent,” he said.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected]
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