So why are the current stewards of college football working so hard to keep college football players from receiving fair compensation? Because paying the players fair compensation would quickly become very expensive.
An analysis conducted by the National College Players Association and Drexel University determined that the fair market value of the average college football player from 2011 through 2015 would be $178,000.
Without scrutinizing the methods and assumptions and hard data on which the report is based, it’s impossible to assess its accuracy. And since the NCPA strongly supports the efforts to pay college players, potential agendas and biases come into play.
But it’s a good framework for advancing the conversation. The programs are making huge money, and the players are getting an “education” with an out-of-pocket cost to the schools far lower than the retail value of said “education.”
Even if the report doesn’t peg the fair market value for college football players with full accuracy, estimates are necessary because the current system prevents the open market from sorting it all out. The current system prevents the market from sorting it out because the colleges fix the compensation by giving players scholarships and otherwise labeling them as amateurs who can’t be paid.
That’s why the antitrust laws should cause college presidents, coaches, and Athletic Directors to lose far more sleep than the threat of unionization. If an antitrust lawsuit succeeds, the entire model necessarily will be blown up, and players will have to be given the opportunity to negotiate with one or more schools for the best possible deal they can get.
If it gets to that point, the NCAA may be begging for the adoption of a nationwide college players union, since that could be the only way to protect universities from themselves as they try to outbid each other for the best of the nation’s high-school prospects.