Loss of PSU football would devastate central Pa. economy

Posted by on July 22, 2012

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. we’ll know whether the NCAA will shut down Penn State football for a year or more.  If CBS News reports are correct that the penalties will be unprecedented, then a multi-year penalty seems likely, as football programs have already been shut down for a year.

To those who want to extract every last pound of flesh from everything and everyone associated with Penn State over the child abuse scandal, I ask, “How will this help the victims?”

Short answer:  it won’t.  Not one bit.

None of us must ever forget the horrible things that happened to these innocent young boys, now men.  And we must do what we can to help them and do our best to see it never happens again.

Shutting down Penn State football will accomplish none of this.

What it will do, in addition to punishing a hundred or so completely innocent student athletes and robbing a hundred-thousand plus fans of what for many is the high point of their year, is devastate the economy of central Pennsylvania, costing thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs at a time our state, and our nation, is struggling mightily to create badly needed jobs.

This story in the Patriot News discusses this aspect of the loss of Penn State football.

Anyone who has attended a Penn State football game doesn’t need a news story to know this.  The throngs who trek to State College eight times a year are the lifeblood for many businesses, and thus, for many employees.  I reported in a story some years ago that many downtown State College businesses make more than 50 percent of their income on football weekends.  Without these windfall days, how many of these businesses would not survive?  Many, I think.

The damage would extend far beyond the immediate State College area.  Restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, and many other businesses, both small and large, in places such as Altoona, Lewistown, even Harrisburg, would suffer.  Some would close, others cut back.  A restaurant that employed 50 might cut its workforce to 35.  A retail outlet that sold mainly memorabilia and employed a half dozen full time and two dozen part time could well shutter its doors, and all those jobs would be gone.  Construction jobs for new buildings are renovations would be lost.  Bank deposits from closed shops would disappear.

Multiply this dozens. scores, maybe even hundreds of times, and the job losses total at least seveal thousand, and possibly well into five figures.

Also in the debris of this destruction is a significant loss of tax revenue to municipalities and the state of Pennsylvania, from a drop in personal and business income taxes, as well as sales tax revenue, to say nothing of the gas tax money lost to our roads from all those RVs not fueling up.

What government programs could suffer?  Child abuse services for one.  All government programs, from education to social services to highway work, are under seige from a drop in tax revenue.  Why not make it worse?

It’s easy for those who both genuinely and self-righteously call for the death penalty for Penn State football to do so without thinking about all the ramifications.  Some do not care.  They want their scalp, and they may well get it.

But those who do really care about doing what’s right and justice–for Jerry Sandusky’s victims, for Penn State football players, for thousands of innocent employees and businesses throughout central Pennsylvania, and for victims of abuse being served by government programs–will see this action would cause more harm than good.

In politics, this is called the law of unintended consequences.

Those are consequences all of us in Pennsylvania may soon be feeling.

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