Monday, December 14, 2009

The Million Dollar Man

ESPN's Mike Fish has an interesting, in depth article on what college players like Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Colt Mccoy might be worth if their schools had to pay them. The answer seems to be a million plus annually. And it is very easy to imagine that giving Jeremy Foley a headache. Below is an excerpt, but the article on all three is worth the read. (And Sam Bradford's pic is the most convincing as a dollar bill pic)

Down in Gator Country, where the Tebow name has a following rarely witnessed in the annals of college sport, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is imagining the headaches if -- remember, please, this is only a whimsical exercise -- he had to sit across from a high-powered agent and negotiate a contract for the services of his star quarterback. Think Tim Tebow might be worth something beyond the $13,000-a-year athletic scholarship Florida has given him?

"Yeah, I imagine those would be interesting conversations," chuckles Foley, the Gators' highly successful department head. "Again, if you could pay them and if he did have an agent, I don't think it is much different than Sam Bradford [Oklahoma] or Colt McCoy [Texas] or a number of players in this country."

In other words, it would be costly. Very costly. Tebow is a franchise, an iconic presence on the collegiate level akin to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the NFL, a player who puts W's in the left column and $$$$$ in the university's coffers. It might not be reflected in the relative worth of the pro contracts these players eventually will sign -- Tebow isn't rated by scouts as a can't-miss pro quarterback prospect -- but on the play-for-no-pay level, it can be argued that his market value to Florida is greater than Bradford's to Oklahoma or McCoy's to Texas. Or, for that matter, the value of running back Mark Ingram at conference rival Alabama or Toby Gerhart out west at Stanford and a handful of others whose names have been mentioned in connection with the 2009 Heisman Trophy that will be awarded Saturday night.

So if a top college player could be paid, what would he be worth?

Good question. There is no market structure in place, so even super agents such as Scott Boras and David Falk say they don't quite know where they'd start their spin and any speculation has to be loaded with enough disclaimers to fill Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field. But one college economics professor who has written several academic papers on the value of collegiate athletes in the past two decades estimates that Tebow and other marquee talent could be worth close to $3 million a season if the college game were subject to market forces similar to those that govern the NFL.

Robert Brown, a professor at Cal State-San Marcos, crunched the collegiate football revenue numbers available in federal documents and obtained by, putting them into an economic model that suggests the typical elite college player -- one who will be drafted into the NFL -- has an average value of $1.3 million to $1.36 million over the course of one season. Brown based his calculations on a fairly narrow revenue stream that can be traced to the player's presence on campus and includes figures provided by on football ticket revenues, contributions, media rights and game-day program sales. Obviously, the figure varies from player to player and school to school; the NFL-bound player from the University of Texas, for example, has a value exceeding that of the future pro from Texas-El Paso.

Likewise, the number goes up for Tebow, McCoy and others in the Heisman conversation. "That would be a franchise player, one of the best players on an NFL team," Brown reasons.

Photo: ESPN Illustration

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