In recent years, as the debate over amateurism in college athletics has raged on, the question often arises: How much money does a top football player truly generate?

A study by researchers at Ohio State University released this week tried to provide an answer, and the figures are robust. According to the study, five-star recruits are worth an average of $650,000 per year to their program.

The study, co-authored by Ohio State economics professor Trevon Logan, uses football revenue data from 2002 to 2012 for all Football Bowl Subdivision schools as well as the recruiting database of

It operates on a two-step procedure. Researchers started by inferring the value of high-level recruits on team performance by tracking the rankings of recruits at one school in a given year and the program’s wins and bowl appearance from that season. The second step involved determining the effect these results — wins and bowl appearances — have on total revenue.

Absent from the study was any mention of the value provided by coaches, the people who actually do get paid — in most cases, quite handsomely — on a college football team.

Instead of insisting players get paid, the goal of the study seemed to be to evaluate how much a player should be paid compared with his teammates, based on the value he brings to his team’s success.

“There have been a lot of numbers put out there about how much college athletes should get under various compensation proposals,” Logan said in a summation of the study. “But it’s hard to do that when you don’t know how players affect the bottom line. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Logan did not respond to a message seeking further information about the study.

In his findings, four-star recruits are estimated to generate $350,000 per year, while three-star recruits generate $150,000 annually.

At some powerhouse schools, such as Alabama or Ohio State, the value of a five-star recruit might not be as high because the roster is loaded with such talents. When researchers controlled for situations such as these, one five-star recruit was estimated to bring about $200,000 in value. The study also controlled for conference, considering that some leagues share money regardless of performance.

The study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Sports Economics, comes at a time when many are criticizing or reconsidering the long-standing model of collegiate amateurism. In October, the NCAA said it would start the process of rethinking its policies on player name, image and likeness use. Many states, including Maryland and Virginia, are considering legislation that would help overhaul the current system.

Logan said the results of his work were not a statement on how much college players should be compensated, because other factors would be involved in that equation.

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