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Report: Average player worth $200K-plus

8/11/2014

On Friday, a federal judge ruled that student-athletes at the top college programs should be compensated for the collective use of their names, images and likenesses. The NCAA will appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, who ruled that those athletes are entitled to a minimum share of $5,000 per year, money that can be placed into a trust and distributed once they leave campus.

But what if they're worth more than that? Much more.

Let's say $212,080. How does that sound?

Well, the average college basketball player is worth that amount, according to the Washington Post's Neil Greenberg. Some of the elite players are worth seven figures, he says.

Greenberg uses teams' total revenue and expenses against win shares -- a measurement of the number of victories attributable to a particular player -- to calculate his numbers.

His metric, however, also assigns more value to the game's best players.

He says Andrew Wiggins was worth more than $900,000 to Kansas during his one season of college ball in 2013-14. Reigning Wooden Award winner Doug McDermott? More than $3.5 million over his four seasons at Creighton.

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle and Co. were worth more than $7 million combined last season, per Greenberg:

"The kids who are going to benefit from this are kids who don't even know what we did today,” former athletic shoe representative Sonny Vaccaro said. “It may only be $5,000 but it's $5,000 more than they get now.”

That's true, but $5,000 annually per student-athlete is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars in revenue the schools generate. For example, using college revenue data from the U.S. Department of Education, the 2011-12 Kentucky men's basketball team generated $23.2 million in revenue and had $13.7 million in expenses attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities after a 38-2 season, which equates to $250,765 per win net of expenses. That would be equivalent to $260,320 in 2014 dollars.

During the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats went 29-11, led by Randle, who was credited with 5.9 win shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player because of his offense and defense. At $260,320 per win, that puts his value to the university at more than $1.53 million. By paying him $5,000, Kentucky gets full value after just four minutes of play.

Last week's developments created the platform for a major shift in the way college sports operate.

The five power conferences were granted autonomy, a move that will allow them to offer stipends to athletes and continue to diminish the NCAA's role in the governance of Division I athletics. And a federal judge's ruling in the O'Bannon trial established the framework for student-athletes to get a cap-controlled cut of the TV/media rights pie.

But maybe this is just the precursor to a pay-for-play model that leads to big paychecks for high-level collegiate athletes.

If that's the case, one look at these numbers suggests these young men deserve much more than the $5,000 that Friday's ruling allotted.