The chart below shows us how much college football players might be worth at the top programs if they were able to play in a free-market system and receive compensation in a manner like that for NFL players.
We calculated the so-called fair market value of college football players at the 20 most profitable programs using data provided by the Department of Education and based on the work of Ellen Staurowsky, a professor at Drexel.
We used the NFL’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, in which the players receive a minimum of 47% of all revenue. Each school’s football revenue was split between the school and the athletes, with the players’ share divided evenly among the 85 scholarship players.
This method allows us to estimate that the average college football player at Texas is worth $666,029 each year, based on the program’s average annual revenue over the past three years of $120.5 million. The average player at Alabama, the top program in the country, is second, at $545,357 a year.
Overall, the average FBS player is worth $163,087 a year, with the average football team taking in $29.5 million in revenue each year.
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On the surface, it is easy to say these athletes should be receiving more than just the standard tuition, room, and board that comes with a scholarship. But it’s far more complicated than that.
Not all schools are making this much money, so the NCAA would have to weigh an even more unbalanced future if some schools were paying players and others could not afford to do so.
An even bigger issue might be complying with Title IX, the law that prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating based on sex. If schools started paying football players, they would almost certainly be required to start providing the same benefits and opportunities to other athletes.
Football teams at big schools make a lot of money. Other sports do not. In fact, the average football team at an FBS school makes more money than its next 35 teams combined.
Eventually, however, more of that is likely to filter back to the people who do the work: the players.