Mark Coomes wrote about NCAA Amateurism for Insider Louisville. He presents some numbers, with help from a Drexel University and National College Players Association study, that are worth consideration.
It’s not clear how a fair market for college athletic talent would play out. But presuming a revenue sharing agreement on par with the NBA or NFL – players receiving around 50 percent of the revenue – the scholarship cost as compensation is woefully inadequate. According to the study, the average Division I college basketball player would earn $266,000 per year. The average FBS football player would earn $114,000.
Looking at the nation’s Top 10 programs in each sport, the compensation would be much greater. In football, the average player would have earned $418,768 in 2011-12 and $1,581,722 over a four-year career (average scholarship “value” is $23,325 per year). In college basketball, players at the Top 10 programs would have earned $901,763 in 2011-12 and $3,501204 over four years (average scholarship: $26,642).
Even 10 percent of the revenue would be nearly four times the average scholarship “value” in football and nearly nine times as much in basketball.
“Pay for play” is really three issues. The scholarship shortfall. Off-the-field revenue and on-the-field revenue.
The NCAA has been trying to resolve the scholarship shortfall. According to the report, the average shortfall at a Top 10 football or basketball was about $3,000 per year. A $2,000 per year stipend for all scholarship athletes was scuttled by smaller programs. Major conferences are on record as supporting that. Presuming an FBS split, they should approve that. Without having to compromise, the number should be greater and may cover or exceed the average deficit.
Off-the-field revenue should be worked out eventually. NCAA amateurism is flawed, unenforceable and indefensible. Forcing players to sign away their likeness rights to participate is unfair. The NCAA cannot police the extant and ubiquitous black market in player compensation. It doesn’t want to. An Olympic-type model, where players may pursue off-the-field endorsements and income costs schools nothing and makes it easier for talented players to stay in school. Power brokers would have to bring college presidents around to this. Presumably, administrators would want that to be the concession to resolve everything, not the starting point for negotiations.
On-the-field revenue will be the sticking point. College football and basketball players produce billions in TV, merchandising and ticket revenue, which is diverted to fund the rest of the athletic infrastructure. Compensating football and basketball players fairly would force significant changes in how athletic departments operate. Coaching some non-revenue sports may become a five-figure or even a part-time job. Some non-revenue sports may have to explore cheaper, regional models of competition to survive. Those are difficult changes no one on the athletics side wants to make. They will battle to the end to keep from making them.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]