Professor, Department of Economics
Sports is one of this country’s biggest businesses, and Tom Rhoads, professor of economics, has made the economics of sports his business. His work in the field began with a paper on the correlation between athletic success and alumni contributions to colleges and universities that quickly garnered media attention.
He followed up with a study of the labor supply on the PGA TOUR that led to research on attendance and demand for minor league baseball. “In major league baseball, attendance is tied to the team’s record,” explains Rhoads. “If the team is winning, attendance goes up.” In the minor leagues, this link is not so strong. “Tickets are cheaper, better seats are available, top prospects are on the field, and there is entertainment,” says Rhoads, of the many factors that contribute to consistent attendance at minor league games.
“Economists look for tension in relationships and determine how to optimize those relationships,” describes Rhoads, who notes a natural tension between minor and major league baseball. “Major league baseball uses the minor leagues for player development purposes, and they like the minor league team located close by,” explains Rhoads. “However, minor leagues want to push away because the closer they are, the more fans they lose to the big leagues.” Rhoads explores this tension in detail in his book, The Call Up to the Majors: A Proximity-Based Approach to the Economics of Minor League Baseball.
In Rhoads’ sports economics class, students learn the basics of the sports industry
and current issues, ranging from publicly funded stadiums to league structures to
salaries and incentives. He also teaches macroeconomic principles and environmental
economics. “I want to give students the economic tools to explore what is going on
in the world,” says Rhoads, who appreciates the balance between teaching and research
at Towson. “I know the level of enjoyment and satisfaction I have found teaching here
would be hard to find at another institution.”