What’s a college athlete worth?


Johnny Manziel wasn’t giving up his money gesture in Texas A&M’s opener. (Eric Gay / AP)

There’s a great deal of debate and conversation about whether college athletes have the right to organize a union and, while the Northwestern leaders are focused more on insurance than pay-for-play, it raises the question: Just how much is a college athlete worth?

A study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association calculated the fair market value of a player between the years 2011 through 2015 and came up with a figure of $178,000 for football players. The biggest stars, like Johnny Manziel, might be worth as much as $547,000 (from 2011-12). The biggest money, though, is in college basketball, where the fair-market value for a player over the same time frame is $375,000. The players expected to be taken early in the NBA draft, like Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, might be worth upwards of $1.6 million.

“The bidding war for athletes would likely be in the millions,” Ellen Staurowsky, a Drexel sports management professor and co-author of the report, said (via NBC News). “However, I think it all depends on whether or not a players’ association ends up representing the teams and players. “The salaries could be effectively bargained to have some sort of minimum guaranteed salary for all.”

The NCPA supports the Northwestern initiative to unionize college athletes and the methodology of the study hasn’t been revealed, but it’s a starting point as the debate over just what a college athlete is worth plays out.

Related: Shabazz Napier takes shot at NCAA

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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