NCAA Football: A Junior Pro League Instead of College

Alabama got the national championship trophy, but the NCAA got $150 million.

Alabama players got the national championship trophy, but the NCAA got $150 million.

“Student-athletes” are paid in diplomas while the institutions and NCAA collect the dollars.   The value of a college degree is not negligible, but the problem is in order to get one a student has to complete the course work.  With the 6-year graduation rate of BCS conference football players at 55.5%, only about half of the players are getting compensated for their services.  Athletes ages 18-22 need another way to be reimbursed for their efforts.  A junior pro league would be the right path for some of these kids to go down instead of college and would make perfect business sense for any potential owners.

Florida International had the nation's worst graduation rate, 40%.

Florida International had the nation’s worst graduation rate, 40%.

The diploma is the only “paycheck” a college football player receives.  This comes after four or five years of hard work.  Scholarships don’t last the length of an academic career; they are year-to-year contracts.  If a player loses his spot on the team or his eligibility before graduating he walks away with nothing.  What other line of work pays people every four years with the right to release its employees whenever it wants without having to pay them for the work already done?

Here are some complicated math numbers that show how broken the system is:

  • 10,625 FBS (division 1-A) players with a scholarship.
  • 2656 players fighting for an NFL job if ¼ of college players leave every year.
  • 264 rookies made the final roster cut in 2013, or roughly 10% of all of the players leaving college.
  • 3 years = The median NFL career[i]
  • $555,000 = The median NFL salary[ii]
  • $1,665,000 = Expected career income for NFL Player[iii]
  • $166,500 = Expected football career income for high school graduate playing college football for four years and three in the NFL[iv]
  • $109,782 = Expected minimum wage earnings for seven years
  • $25mil = Average FBS conference school’s annual profit on football in 2012
  • $35,000 = Average annual cost for college
  • $294,118 = Approximate annual Profit per football player in 2012
  • $140,000 = Average four year cost of college
  • $1,176,470= Approximate four year career profit for school per player
There is only a $56,718 difference between expected salary working minimum wage and playing football.  That's only about $1000 more per year over the course of a lifetime.

There is only a $56,718 difference between expected salary working minimum wage and playing football. That’s only about $1000 more per year over the course of a lifetime.

As the numbers show a person who graduates high school and takes a minimum wage job is not that much worse off than the average FBS football player.  If the cost of education counts as salary then student athletes are only making around 12% of what they are worth.  When presented with these statistics, what promising young athlete would chose to go to college?

A junior pro league would be able to get the best talent around the country because college football is such a fraud.  The league for 18-22 year olds would serve as the players’ three to five years after high school and before the NFL.  They would be able to make a constant stream of cash instead of having to wait for a four-year payoff that may or may not come.  They would also be able to sign with agents and make endorsement money right away in addition to their playing salaries.

Rough structure of how this league could work financially:

16 Teams in major sports media markets:

East West
Atlanta Dallas
Baltimore Denver
Boston Houston
Chicago Los Angeles
Detroit Phoenix
New York Seattle
Philadelphia San Diego
Washington San Francisco

Annual Costs per team:

$20 mil = Player Salary for 60-man roster

$2mil = Room and Board for players

$10 mil = Cost of top of the line coaching staff and front office

$15 mil = Other Expenses

$47 mil = Total cost

Annual Revenue per team:

$24.5mil = Ticket sales[v]

$20mil = TV contract[vi]

$10mil = Merchandise[vii]

$15mil = Advertisements

$1.5mil = Gameday concessions[viii]

$61mil = Total Revenue

Total Profit per team = $14 million

This arrangement makes sense for the players and the owners.  On a 60-man team, the players would average $333,333 in annual salary and the owners would make back around 30% of the money that they put in.

It would take a handful of billionaires sitting around a table to get the league started.  If it ever happens, watch out NCAA.


[i] Median used rather than average because there are too many outliers greater than the average.

[ii] Median used rather than average because there are too many outliers greater than the average.

[iii] Median annual salary times Median career length

[iv] Expected career salary times percentage of scholarship athletes that make NFL

[v] Projecting 50,000 attendance and $49 average ticket price

[vi] Pac-12 equivalent

[vii] 1% of the NFL mark used for Merch., Ads.

[viii] Determined by assuming half NFL attendance with half the spending power

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About tommymorrismedia

USC '12, Co-host Executive Producer Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Play-By-Play KXSC for football, basketball, and baseball.

Posted on September 23, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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