In conclusion of our two-part series about “The Price Of College Football” we wrap up our roundtable by discussing what college football players would be worth on an open market, and suggest what may fix the sport.
The Daily: These kids are seeing the money. Are there just too many people in their ears telling them what they’re worth?
John Infante: And right in front of them offering it. I heard Tank Black, the former agent who went to prison, talk at an NCAA convention. He said, “There’s plenty of players who ask, but there’s plenty of players who get offered.” It’s pretty easy if you’re the star quarterback in a college town, if you walk around long enough, somebody will offer you something.
Charles Davis: They’re worth a bunch of money. What do you think Andrew Luck would be worth this year? Just by coming back to Stanford? Him coming back to Stanford has meant everything to that university.
Terrelle Pryor, we can say whatever we want to say, but there were a heck of a lot of No. 2 jerseys sold while he was there, among other things. What was that hostess making again at Auburn, 12 what?
The Daily: $12,800.
Davis: She was probably underpaid. If she’s making 12-8, I can’t even begin to tell you what some of these guys are worth.
Gary Andrew Poole: It seems like it’s the disparity that’s the issue here. You have programs going down because guys get tattoos. And if each player, let’s just say every player no matter if they’re a star or not, received $20- to $30,000 a year, wouldn’t that take away a lot of the problems?
The Daily: What if we just allowed a complete free market? What if T. Boone Pickens, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to his alma mater, Oklahoma State (hence Boone Pickens Stadium), could spread some of that cash around to players?
Jay Paterno: That’s when you get into a very dangerous situation. Who is really calling the shots in terms of your program now? The head coach may want these five guys, but T. Boone Pickens walks in and says, “I don’t give a damn. I’m going to buy this quarterback, and he’s a five-star on Rivals.” Even though the head coach evaluated him and … what you get yourself is a team owner. And the team owner isn’t going to really give a damn if you graduate your kids. He’s going to want to be sitting in University of Phoenix Stadium when they’re playing for the national championship. He’s not going to care if you graduate 30 percent of your guys or 80 percent of your guys.
The Daily: Charles, when you played at the University of Tennessee, could you imagine a situation where before a bowl game players got together and went on strike?
Davis: It almost happened. Do you remember Dick DeVenzio? Dick had been a basketball player at Duke and he got onto a crusade about the athletes aren’t getting their fair share. He actually used the term ‘slavery’ and the whole deal. And I became friends with Dick, worked his basketball camp a couple of summers. He wanted me to help organize a strike before the Liberty Bowl game against Minnesota my senior year.
The Daily: A strike at the Liberty Bowl? Would anyone have noticed?
Davis: And I talked about it with a few of my teammates, and it actually floated above me to our administrators and our coaches. Then I got a visit from our team trainer saying, “Hey, what’s this I’m hearing about a strike?” My heart started beating 15 times its normal rate. Let’s be honest about it: At the end of the day, we wanted to play. And we knew who controlled playing time and that would be our coaches and administrators, and we lived in fear of them about scholarships, about playing, about all sorts of things. So it was never getting that far anyway. But could I ever see it happening? Wow. It’s hard, because I keep seeing the influence coaches have on players.
Paterno: Ultimately what we have to keep in focus is, whether we want to or not, and whether it sounds idealistic or not, the whole idea of college football is that we are part of the university. Where you lose the argument about these guys getting used or not being paid is that you don’t take into account the value of the education. A kid like Andrew Luck, he’s getting a $70,000 per year education and the NCAA has limited his football time to 600 hours a year. You do the math, that’s over $100 an hour. Pretty good deal.
The Daily: How much would (Stanford quarterback and preseason Heisman favorite) Andrew Luck be worth on the open market this season, for one season of college football?
Infante: I would say somewhere between $150,000 to $250,000.
The Daily: That’s all? After Cecil Newton opened the bidding at $180,000 for his son?
Infante: I’m not sure a school would be comfortable paying a player more than its assistant coaches.
Poole: Let’s say the top 20 teams in the country made a play for Luck. I think he could make $5 million this season.
Davis: We’re talking in the millions. More TV appearances. More people in the stands. More applications. Luck would definitely draw an offer of seven figures.
The Daily: Give us one thing you’d do to “fix” college football.
Infante: I would allow college athletes to earn outside income related to athletics, but with a lot of restrictions. I would still prohibit loans or payments from boosters or agents, so it would have to be legitimate commercial endorsements. I would only allow them to receive a certain portion of it while they still had eligibility remaining. That would limit the willingness of student-athletes to ignore school to make more money this way. You could even tie the amount to academics. Say, right away they can receive their GPA (multiplied by) $1,000.
Poole: One: To bring a level of equity to the student-athletes, players at major universities should get paid a $20,000 stipend. Two: In an effort to truly change underserved communities, universities should provide scholarships to siblings of the players. Three: Because athletic careers are short and their college experience is so limited, a percentage of merchandizing and television revenues should be set aside so student-athletes can return to school for advanced degrees.
Davis: Nothing significant, but I’m an old soul. I would like college football to be played only on Saturdays.