April 10, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
Adrian Peterson, the superstar running back for the NFL Minnesota Vikings is making news again. This time it’s not for carrying the ball for 2,000 yards or so or for blowing out his knee. Nope, this time he’s carrying a message not a pigskin, and it’s targeted to all NCAA head-honchos.
His message? Time to pay up!
Specifically, Mr. Peterson argues that for the millions of dollars stars like Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) generate for his school as he (AP) did while playing for Oklahoma they should be paid a salary or at least share in the profits. Pure and simple says Peterson.
Ah, but really now, is there anything either pure or simple about collegiate athletics these days?
Let’s take a look at some numbers. Maybe that will help us navigate the playing field better.
The top schools, and I mean the real NCAA Division I powerhouses do generate some serious cash from their sports programs. And the Lion’s share comes from Men’s Football and Basketball. The University of Alabama certainly roll in a tidal wave of cash each year. In 2013 it was over $142 million dollars. One of the “lower” cash generating big-time schools was the University of Oregon and they broke $75 million.
Where does all this money come from you ask?
Ticket sales, donations, sponsorships, fees, royalties, merchandising, advertising, bowl game awards, jersey sales, and of course the almighty television contracts and direct payments.
College athletics is reportedly a $12 billion marketplace today.
Overall, Division 1 and 2 schools provide 130,000 student-athletes with over $2.5 billion in scholarships each year. DIII schools do not offer athletically related financial aid to their sports participants.
On average, public schools gave over $20,000 each year to each of its student-athletes while private schools averaged over $35,000.
Yet here’s the even more unbelievable figure to digest-With the exception of the very top powerhouse schools, the large majority of schools with D1 and D2 sports programs report LOSING money each year.
Holy Johnny Football, how can this be?
Well, the average cost to develop, train and sustain an SEC football player for example is apparently $175,000 per year. Some reports peg the cost at Texas A&M football at over $475,000 per player, per year. That’s a lot of Tex-Mex BBQ.
We are also informed that only about 15 public university athletic programs across the nation actually break even or make money directly from their sports programs.
See, didn’t that clear things up nicely?
Not even close.
Excluding major football, basketball and in some more rare instances baseball programs, mostly men though not exclusively, the fact is the majority of sports programs simply cost its school more money than it takes in.
For every Johnny Manziel or Adrian Peterson or the never-ending “one-and-done” b-ballers at the University of Kentucky who generate huge dollars for their school of choice before going pro, there are thousands of genuine student-athletes whose love of sport while in school is being 100% subsidized. And who, let’s be honest, going pro is simply not a realistic option.
In fact, of all those 130,000 student-athletes each year who compete in their respective sport, a very, and I do mean very, small percentage ever turn pro.
About 1.7% of all football players, 1.2% of all Men’s basketball players and 0.8% soccer players land a spot in the pros. Women’s basketball is about the only female sports program with a meaningful percentage and it comes in at 0.9%.
But even for these relatively paltry figures, these NCAA schools serve as unofficial minor leagues for mega-money leagues like the NBA, MLB, NFL and even the NHL. There’s a reason that owners can, apparently, afford to pay their top stars $300 million dollar contracts and still have enough left over to make their Mercedes-Benz payments and heat their Malibu Mansion swimming pools.
So, should all student-athletes be paid a salary or share in profits as Peterson asserts or should we just carve out a share of the sports booty for the few superstars at the top of the D1 heap?
Or is it enough that schools pay free rides for these athletes to obtain a degree if they so choose? An option by the way that is fast becoming an obsolete dream of many American kids and their parents.
With the average cost of a 4 year school now hovering at over $100,000 college doesn’t mean getting ready for the big-time NFL contract for the rest of us, it means debt. And lots of it for a lot of years.
Should we just let these few stars like Manziel load up the van with cash if and when they do turn pro, knowing they didn’t have to exactly “rough it” while in school?
Is it really that unfair for schools like Texas A&M to generate cash off of the backs and jerseys of players like Manziel? Does he not get to pursue his dream soon enough? Can he or others like him wait just a bit more before “cashing in?”
Maybe the answer is to end the charade of the “student-athlete” label for the real elite players. Maybe it is time to simply have these athletes simply sign a pay-for-performance contract at the collegiate level and be done with it.
But when Mr. Peterson thinks of players like himself and Manziel let’s just be clear, these are the absolute smallest of minorities of all student-athletes.
The overwhelming majority of student-athletes are not generating dollars for their school though it’s hard to imagine much school spirit or pride without them.
Perhaps the real answer lies outside of collegiate sports. Those mega-money professional sports owners who would not be able to stock their teams without student-athlete programs (unless all our pro sports rosters become completely filled with foreign born players) may need to step up to the money plate.
Yes, Adrian, maybe it’s time the real elite of the elite student-athletes get paid. But maybe it’s the folks at the NBA and the NFL who should be the ones writing the checks. They seem to be really good at doing that already.