College Football Television and Attendance: The Problem With Selection Bias

Jeremy M. Losak
Samuel Marteka
and Mackenzie Mangos

Television coverage’s impact on college football attendance is a topic of debate. Between 2005 and 2019, annual growth in athletic department revenues for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools from media rights, postseason football, and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conference distributions far exceeded revenue growth in ticket sales revenue. This study re-evaluates the substitution or complementarity of television coverage and stadium attendance in college football with updated data while controlling for selection bias through endogenous treatment regression. Although initial results reveal a positive correlation between television coverage and attendance, national coverage and attendance appear to be substitutes after controlling for selection bias. That said, from an attendance maximizing perspective, national coverage is preferable to lower-tiered coverage if a game is to be televised.