Are college athletes being "undervalued" by the market?

tomcollins's picture
January 11, 2011 at 11:41a


There's a big argument that these kids are being underpaid or undervalued by the market, and should get paid.  If that were the case, a minor league professional system would surely be able to be formed by the market.  But the thing is, people don't want to see random kids competing.  They want to see them competing for THEIR teams.  College athletics makes a ton of money not because of the talent they have, but because of the teams themselves.  I wonder if they really would make any more than that in a competitive free market.  Minor league baseball players rarely make much, and those that do are the prospects that are tied to professional teams who are basically being locked away and trained.  But the real value being brought to the table is from the universities themselves.  If Terrele Pryor played for the Chilicothe Cowboys, I wouldn't give a damn about his games or what his team did.  It's only because silver helmet that causes me to follow him.  I follow college football for the tradition, the rivalries, and the familiarity.  The talent on the field has little to do with it.

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Nick's picture

Agree that the program creates the hype around the players (mostly) BUT  they are still undervalued at the same time. I believe these guys should get

  • Free Tuition (already there)
  • Free books (already there)
  • Free meals (kinda there, not so much if off campus)
  • Free housing (they should build/make players stay in a football housing facility not only will this ensure they don't have to pay rent but there is more peer presssure to do the right things and more supervision)
  • Monthly Stipend ~1000$/month (These guys can't get a job they should get some spending money to go on dates, pay for a cell phone, go out with the guys, buy the new dvd/video game etc)
tomcollins's picture

That could work at the big time programs, but it would cripple the smaller ones.  Perhaps allow them to get "up to".  The small guys will be pissed they won't be able to compete to win, though.

Nick's picture

Someone should sue the Federal government and get rid of title9 sports it would help a lot of schools

tomcollins's picture

Yeah, that adds a ton of the hidden costs.

Bucksfan's picture

Interesting, but I completely disagree.  Ohio State's brand is entirely built upon the success that their elite talent has accomplished starting with Chic Harley and continuing through the ages until today.  It is the dedication of the school, its alumni, its city, and the people of its state to winning football games that has made Ohio State what it is.  It doesn't tolerate a loser.

The talent on the field has everything to do with it.  To say otherwise is, quite frankly, moronic.  If Ohio State started fielding ex-high school 3rd stringers because all the great players are in the NFL farm system, their popularity would disappear.  Great players sustain Ohio State's football team.

tomcollins's picture

But Ohio State's talent level is far, far below the talent level of the Browns or the Bengals, but that doesn't stop their popularity.  I know I'm not watching the best football out there.  Sometimes that's even more entertaining.  Women's tennis is more entertaining than men's.  College basketball is more entertaining than the NBA (at least to me).

You are right that the talent level needs to be at the level of the top competition it faces.  But it doesn't need to be the absolute top talent.  Just decent talent.  I'm not sure that many athletes could command a price much greater than the scholarships they are given (a decent number would, just like baseball prospects).

College baseball, while not terribly popular in the north, is quite popular in southern schools.  They compete directly against minor leagues for talent and they do just fine.  The northern schools suffer do to the weather and the calendar working against them.  There is still tons of talent in colleges and the games are entertaining.  I would expect to see the same thing with football.

Now if you go to the extreme of showing awful talent, I suppose.  But high school football is very popular with a very low talent level on average.