Student Well-Being

Report: Top-Tier NCAA Athletes Worth $100,000 or More

By Bryan Toporek — September 13, 2011 2 min read

Pay-for-play advocates just received a new round of ammunition when it comes to college athletes.

Top-tier football and men’s basketball players in college are worth more than $100,000 each, according to a new report

from the National College Players Association, an advocacy group. With student-athletes receiving only scholarships as compensation, the NCPA argues that they should start receiving a cut of the revenues.

If this model ever came to fruition, one can only imagine the trickle-down effect that it would have on high school sports. Needless to say, football and men’s basketball would become even more highly emphasized at the high school level with extra thousands of dollars on the line for scholarship athletes.

The report, “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport,” says that the average Division I Football Bowl Subdivision player would be worth $121,000 per year if college athletes were allowed access to a fair market, as professionals are.

Think that’s something? The average Division I men’s basketball player would be worth $265,000 per year.

The report’s authors, Ramogi Huma, head of the NCPA, and Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky, used the revenue-sharing agreements of the NFL and NBA, which entitle players to roughly 50 percent of the league’s revenues, to determine the fair market value of these players.

They argue that based on their findings, these football and men’s basketball players should receive a portion of new revenues and have them set aside. The funds would go toward helping cover educational costs while the player retains athletic eligibility, and the player would receive the rest upon graduation.

Why should these student-athletes be paid? According to the authors, playing high-level football and men’s basketball in college amounts to a full-time job, as players in the Football Bowl Subdivision reported devoting 43.3 hours per week to the sport, while Division I men’s basketball players spent 39 hours per week, during the season.

Their next proposal will bring a smile to the face of ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. They recommended that the NCAA adopt the Olympic amateur model, meaning that student-athletes would be allowed to obtain endorsements, with some of the money heading toward the reserve fund and the rest going to the athlete immediately. The authors say, “The NCAA’s version of amateurism is impractical and is an unjust financial arrangement imposed upon college athletes.”

The authors also suggest a move that’s being openly considered by the NCAA: requiring universities to cover full costs of enrollment, going past tuition, room and board, and student fees.

In addition, the authors believe schools should be free to provide multiyear athletic scholarships in all sports if they so choose. (Currently, athletic scholarships only run on a year-to-year basis.) SEC Commissioner Mike Slive suggested a similar plan back in July.

While the ideas regarding scholarships have a puncher’s shot at being passed, the idea of paying student-athletes with extra revenues may very well be dead on arrival. NCAA President Mark Emmert is already on record as being against the idea of providing athletes with extra compensation beyond full-cost scholarships.

“They are student-athletes,” he said earlier this year. “They are not our employees, they don’t work for us. They are our students, so we don’t pay them.”

Ultimately, this report harkens back to some of the major problems that are currently preventing pay-for-play from being a viable model. The chief problem being: Football and men’s basketball are the

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.