This week’s cover story makes the case that powerhouse college sports programs ought to pay the student athletes who attract millions of dollars in revenue to the school. The morality of doing so is knotty, but the math is not. The amount of money each college football or men’s basketball player brings in to a major program is almost always far greater than the value of his scholarship.
In March, a report coyly titled “The $6 Billion Heist” laid out these calculations for each of the 120+ schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, providing figures for both football and men’s basketball teams. The report, produced by a group called the National College Players Association in partnership with the Drexel University Sport Management Department, poses the following hypothetical: If these two college sports operated under the same revenue sharing agreements as their pro counterparts, how much would each athlete earn after subtracting the value of his scholarship?
At Virginia Tech, for example, the football program brought in $32,989,216 in the 2011-2012 season. In the NFL, college bargaining agreements dictate that 46.5 percent of revenue goes to players. (In the NBA, it’s 50 percent.) By the NFL margin, each of the 85 scholarship Hokie players would get $180,470. When you deduct the $18,669 value of a year of attendance at Virginia Tech, you’re left over with $161,801 arguably owed to the players.
The economics of college are different from the NFL and NBA, of course. College sports programs have many worthy smaller sports that do not pay for themselves with lucrative TV deals and a run on merchandise. But using the professional figures as a starting point, the report produces some damning figures. In the following interactive, you can select any FBS school and see how this calculation plays out.
Make sure you try Texas and Louisville.