How much do you think an Iowa football player could earn in a free-market system? How about an Iowa State men’s basketball player?
As the Ed O’Bannon case weaves its way through the legal system, and others debate the merits of unionization for student-athletes, it was only a matter of time before someone started crunching numbers.
The eye-popping totals can be found in a paper titled “College Athletes Everywhere Just Wanna Be Free.”
It was written by Tom Kruckemeyer, a former chief economist for the Missouri Office of Budget and Planning, and Sarah Steelman, a former Missouri state treasurer.
“This is just something we kind of did on our own,” Kruckemeyer said, “as we thought it might be fun.”
Their numbers are based on revenues reported by the schools, which can include donations as well as concession and ticket sales.
“If the colleges were to go to an openly professional system, presumably they’d have to devise a team salary cap and then decide how to pay the money out,” Kruckemeyer said. “This would all be subject to negotiations and so forth.
“The principle is … the average player is worth vastly more than the value of a scholarship.”
Kruckemeyer bases his salary estimates on percentages allocated through collective bargaining agreements in the NFL and NBA.
As a result, the average annual “salary” for a Hawkeye football player would be $723,182. For a Cyclone men’s basketball player, it would be $495,696.
A driving force behind all of this, of course, is television.
Kruckemeyer points out that college sporting events have always drawn sizable crowds, such as 43,000 at a Harvard-Yale football game in 1905.
The difference is an explosion in media opportunities.
According to a USA TODAY database, Iowa received $38,150,778 in rights and licensing in 2012, while Iowa State received $28,536,965.
“Television revenues are a critical part to the overall finances in major college sports,” Kruckemeyer said. “There is no doubt TV and radio rights are one of the biggest sources of revenue, depending on the school.”