How much is a college quarterback worth? $ 2.4 million

This pandemic has threatened university sports. Canceling the Division I men’s basketball tournament alone last spring cost the NCAA an estimated $ 375 million. Athletics departments reduce staff and salaries. Even universities as rich as Stanford are dropping sports that do not generate significant ticket sales or TV revenue, thereby shattering the dreams of swimmers, fencers and rowers. Billions are still in balance.

So this may not seem like the best moment to float the idea of ​​paying college athletes. At the same time, the focus on the huge sums that college sports programs are losing due to Covid-19 is a reminder that some of them bring in huge sums. It is also a reminder that players do not share in these profits. Even the tape tension at some universities draws attention to how much money is routinely thrown around. When Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the University of Michigan football team, took a 10 percent pay cut, it reduced his home salary this year to just $ 6.75 million. Mike Krzyzewski, a basketball coach at Duke University who earned $ 7.3 million last year, reportedly took a reduction of between 2.5 and 10 percent. In fact, difficult times.

With that in mind, it might now be an ideal time to reflect on the big business that is college sports. In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Craig Garthwaite, an economist at Northwestern University, and his co-authors presented a detailed case for paying players, arguing that because the vast majority of the revenue from colleges with major sports programs – they looked specifically at the so-called Power Five athletics conferences – comes from football and men’s basketball, these players need to get a piece of cake. A big piece, actually: By finding out which colleges are made of these sports, mostly from TV contracts, and looking at how professional athletes are paid as a guide, they estimate that a starting quarterback should earn $ 2 , 4 million a year, while a broad recipient must be paid $ 1.3 million. In men’s basketball, a point guard should earn $ 1.2 million, while a small forward player just retires at $ 1.1 million. The guys on the bench are doing pretty well under this proposed system: A reserve offensive lineman would earn $ 138,000; a backup firefighter, $ 250,000.

Paying players huge salaries would undoubtedly create a number of new problems. Among them is that colleges that are not in top conference are not able to pay their players anything, which will lead to clear recruitment differences. But even for colleges that could afford to pay, there would be adverse ripple effects. As it is now, the revenue from football and men’s basketball subsidizes other sports, and that almost certainly means paying players seven-digit salaries will reduce spending elsewhere and probably eliminate programs altogether unless colleges could come up with new sources of funding. Goodbye, lacrosse; so long, volleyball.

The sports that make the most money for colleges happen to be the sports that have the highest percentage of black athletes.

In fact, Garthwaite tells me that he has received unhappy emails from coaches, including a tennis coach at a Division I university, complaining that the idea, if implemented, would ruin their sport at the collegiate level. He’s also heard from Title IX spokesmen about the likely negative impact on women’s athletics. They may very well be right, Garthwaite says, but he does not think it should change the calculation. “It’s just the status quo bias,” Garthwaite says. “It’s not that we want to punish you, but you have lived off the greatness of these other sports for a long time.”

He has also heard the case, one that is made every time the topic comes up that athletes are already compensated with scholarships. Garthwaite does not find this argument convincing. “I do not believe in most labor markets we say, ‘If you get paid, we will pay you the fair amount,’ ‘he says.

Tthe sports that make the most money for colleges happen to be the ones that have the highest percentage of black athletes: About half of football and men’s basketball players are black, while athletes in other college sports are overwhelmingly white. In the paper, the researchers examined socioeconomic data related to the hometowns of any high school athlete in the 2018 top conferences and found that football and men’s basketball players come from school districts with a higher percentage of students living in poverty than athletes in other sports. They concluded that the funding of university sports at these institutions “effectively involves a transfer from students who are more likely to be black and more likely to come from poor neighborhoods to students who are more likely to be white and from higher income quarters. ” Should black athletes really continue to subsidize sports played mostly by white athletes?

Garthwaite and his co-authors are not the only ones to reach that conclusion. TO paper published by the National College Players Association last July entitled “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Promominantly Black Athletes of Millions in Generational Wealth” also calculates the value per. plays for elite college athletes compared to professional athletes, although it does not break down values ​​by position (the authors estimate, for example, that the average basketball player in the Big 12 conference is worth half a million dollars per season). They claim that around $ 10 billion, which should have been predominantly earned by predominantly black athletes, from 2017 to 2020 was essentially transferred to coaches and administrators who are predominantly white.

Similar cases have been filed for decades. In 1990 A paper published in Notre Dame Law Review argued that sports programs in the “power elite” should pay their players (“The NCAA invokes the shibboleth of amateurism, and the public and the judiciary head”). In 1997, a paper was published in South Texas Law Review titled “Pay for Games for College Athletes: Now More Than Ever.” IN 2012 A paper published in International Review of Sports Sociology argued that it is “because of time that institutions treat college athletes, especially black male income athletes, as being worthwhile in themselves rather than as a means of improving their school’s public visibility and making money for athletic departmental coffers.”

The arguments were as passionate as they are now, and it is quite possible that another decade will pass and more articles with variations on the same dissertation will be written, published, and more or less ignored. Meanwhile, the amount of money that colleges earn continues to grow.

Yet there is at least some reason to believe that change may be on the way. Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which allows athletes to receive compensation for the use of their names and similarities. Sports Illustrated called the law is a “game changer” for university sports. In August, 10 U.S. senators suggested a “college athlete’s rights” that includes revenue sharing agreements between athletes and colleges. Among those who support the bill is Bernie Sanders, who in a statement called it “ridiculous” that the NCAA still does not allow players to be paid.

“In the midst of this pandemic, these athletes need to have a seat at the table when their health and safety are at stake,” he said. “These athletes are workers. It’s been a long time since they were treated like that. “


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