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Downtown Alliance says successful UT football program leads to large economic impact in Knoxville

The Downtown Alliance said a Vols home game means a week filled with customers, dining and sales.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Tuesday, Josh Heupel got a raise of around $4 million. The University of Tennessee's Head Football Coach signed his new contract on Tuesday, making $9 million plus incentives and staying with the team until at least 2029.

Under his leadership, the team made it to The Orange Bowl. Last year, the Vols went 11-2, capping off the season with a win in the Orange Bowl against Clemson. The Vols had the top offense in the nation in both scoring and total offense.

The Downtown Alliance said that when the Vols are in the lead, the city's economy booms.

"There's a big difference. It's funny how that will really make and break things," said Michele Hummel, the executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

She said that in 2017, the Vols helped Knox County businesses make around $42 million in total. She said she expects those numbers to have increased in the six years since then.

"Game after game sold out, and all the hotels are sold out, and the restaurants are full. This is bringing economic activity," said Dr. Bill Fox, a professor at the Haslam College of Business.

He also emphasized that UT's education spending is distinct from its athletics department. He said the education programs are funded with tuition, state funding and donations.

"That's money that does not contribute to the athletic department. It goes to run the university, to provide for the library, and the faculty, and the campus and those kinds of things," Fox said. 

The athletics department gets its money from sources like ticket sales, advertising revenue and the SEC, he said.

"The university strictly separates those, and so the money that pays for coaches and even pays for scholarships for most of the athletes is coming from a different set of sources than what runs the university itself," he said.

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