The average NCAA men’s basketball player should walk out of commencement with a diploma … and more than $1 million. Football players should have earned nearly the same.
In the new study, How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth, Drexel University Professor and Athletic Administration Concentration Program Director, Ellen Staurowsky, breaks down the estimated transfer of wealth from athletes in college football and basketball to their coaches, athletic directors and conference directors. The study has lifted the veil on the fiscal value associated with being a male Division 1 student athlete.
Eyes are being opened over the revelations: We can finally see the dollar amounts associated with the collateral damage of not paying college athletes, especially those not destined for the pros, their fair share of the multi-billion-dollar pie, especially those not destined for the pros.
It was never a matter of if college athlete exploitation was going on in the NCAA, it was a matter of by how much in this corrosive structure. And the upshot is it is robbing these athletes, the majority of whom are men of color, of the potential for generational wealth — wealth they helped bring about, but instead went into the pockets of predominantly white coaches, administrators and commissioners.
“Shortly after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, NCAA president Mark Emmert issued a statement decrying the continuing existence of racial inequality and injustice in America,” Staurowsky stated at the introduction of the study. “The truth that the leadership of the NCAA and college conferences cannot escape, however, and must come to terms with, is the fact that the college sports industry is built on racial inequality and injustice.”
A key component of the study is that college football and basketball are the biggest revenue generators for athletic departments, but they also happen to be the sports that comprise the largest share of Black athletes: 49 percent of NCAA Division I college football players, and 56 percent of men’s basketball players, are Black.
Over 2017-2020, Staurowsky found that, after accounting for the value of scholarships, at least 10 billion dollars in generational wealth was transferred from college football and basketball athletes to the salaries of their coaches and administrators. The figures she came up with were based on a 47 percent and 50 percent revenue sharing model utilized by the NFL and NBA fair market collective bargaining agreements, respectively. Staurowsky estimated what an average worth of each player would be based on the information each University is required to report via the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) for the academic year 2018-2019 and on the 47/50 percent revenue share model.
Turning the page to the racial demographics of coaches and administrators, 82 percent of head football coaches and 69 percent of head basketball coaches are white men. Chancellors and presidents are 80 percent white and athletic directors and associate ADs are 79 and 84 percent white, respectively.
Not included in this data are the five salaries of the Power Five conference commissioners during the study’s span 2017-2019. Their salaries are below.
- Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany - $5.5 million
- PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott - $5.2 million
- Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby - $4.1 million
- ACC Commissioner John Swofford - $3.5 million
- SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey - around $2 million
All five of these commissioners are white men. The head coach’s average annual salary at these schools is $4.1M.
The study notes that in these big-money conferences, including independents Utah and Notre Dame, the fair market value of men’s football players was $337,755/season (approximately $1,351,020 over four years) and men’s basketball players at Power Five and Big East Conference institutions had a fair market value of $551,183 ($2,204,733 over four years).
But what about the value of scholarships? Let’s take the estimated cost of attendance for two Power Five schools, Duke and Alabama, $81,382 and $51,424 respectively. Their athletic scholarships are worth less than 1/6th — for both football and basketball players — of an equitable salary.
For those that have kept their ear to the wall on the slow progress of college athletes receiving financial compensation for their on-the-field performances, this study shouldn’t be a surprise.
“College sports doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” said Ramogi Huma, Founder of the National College Players association. “The ADs and college presidents are responsible for that. College athletes deserve their fair share of the revenue they generate.”
At a time when the country is experiencing a racial awakening where many folx have taken a hard look at the systemic racism that persists within institutions — the NCAA being one of them. Black people in the United States constitute 13.5 percent of the population but only 2.5 percent of the wealth and there is a laundry list of reasons why. The common denominator is exploitation — the kind the NCAA engages in.
And even if Blacks amass appreciating assets, there are still hurdles that many other racial demographics don’t have to clear. Everyone’s wealth deflated due to the 2008 recession, but Black Americans are the only racial demographic that hadn’t fully recovered by 2020.
Wealth in this country is garnered over time by individuals who have had the means to economically compete via governmental policy, home ownership, stock investment and mutual funds, capital and business creation, etc.
The NCAA is an institution operating much like the rest of society — circumventing Black athletes from their fair compensation, something Staurowsky shows in her study. She argues that knowing the socioeconomic status that many of these athletes come from, providing them with a head start toward a financially sound retirement is the least the NCAA could do with its vast riches:
“From the perspective of generational wealth, the denial of player access to their fair market value has cost them during the years when they were playing, as well as the potential for what that money would mean to their long-term financial security. For example, if a college football or men’s basketball player invested just $100,000 of what they should be compensated for under a fair revenue-sharing agreement into a retirement account at 6% interest over 40 years, their investment would accrue to $1,028,572.”
Watching Dabo Swinney, the highest paid coach in college football at Clemson at $9.3 million, double down on not wanting to pay college athletes when the majority of the players in his program are Black and have made him wealthy, is the exact reason why the fiscal system of college sports is backwards. The folx out there generating the cash should be the primary monetary beneficiaries.
Seeing the covers ripped off the NCAA’s ruthless fiscal model in this study falls right in line with the current movement of questioning the foundations of many institutions in our country. As the study’s authors conclude, “The NCAA’s arcane stance regarding college athlete compensation and its refusal to allow college athletes to share in the revenue they generate is emblematic of this larger system of racial economic inequality and injustice.”