The Million Dollar NCAA Athlete

NCAA, NBPA, NBA owners

David Berri wrote a very good article for The Atlantic where he estimated the economic value of each player on the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team.  Joel Embiid’s performance this season is worth around $800,000 to the University of Kansas.

Assuming these estimates are in the ballpark of accurate then Chris Webber was easily worth over one million dollars to the University of Michigan during his time in Ann Arbor.  Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s value to his college is probably in the many, many millions.

Prep athletes in the two major sports have to look ironically enough to Europe to take advantage of the (mostly) free market.  Five years ago Brandon Jennings got paid $1.2 million in salary and endorsements to play in Italy for one year before he was eligible for the NBA draft.

If top North American athletes want to stay in ‘these United States’ Berri suggests a “simple solution”:

“…Let’s imagine a scenario where more than one school decided to create a “professional NCAA.”  A collection of “rogue” teams could both pay their employees (i.e. student-athletes) more money, and have someone to play (hence be able to produce revenue).”

Surely the SEC in football and ACC in basketball could secede from the NCAA and form a “pro NCAA” as David Berri suggests.  What would be the harm in that?

Big time schools could face P.R. issues if they spend fewer (or zero) resources on non-revenue producing sports.  In the “pro NCAA” Duke and UNC would decide for themselves if they want their basketball revenue to be spent on less popular sports programs.  Their decisions would in-turn be a signal to the best high school softball players or swimmers to either be more or less interested in attending Duke and UNC.

Colleges seceding from the NCAA would dramatically increase the freedom of the very best young basketball and football players.  Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker could offer their employment via contract to willing participants in the “pro NCAA”.  A dozen major schools seceding would send a clear message to the current NCAA cartel, NBA players and owners that their failed business model is their problem.



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