College athletes stripped of value during peak years


Loss of generational wealth is one result

The Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC and the Big East are among many conferences not playing football this fall because of the pandemic. The players’ health and safety has been largely overshadowed by loud wailing over the financial hit big-time schools will take.

The University of Minnesota, for example, stands to lose at least $75 million in revenue from the absence of fall sports, which include “Olympic sports” such as women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country. Discontent comes as well from the White House down to players’ parents blindly wanting football nonetheless.

Dr. Karen Weaver, a Drexel professor and Forbes contributor, told us that for “people inside college athletics,” accepting the reality of the new COVID era of sports “has been really hard.”

College players historically have been denied a share of the multi-billion-dollar college sport economic pie. Many are stuck on the myth that college athletes “get a free ride” (scholarship) and that should be enough, when in all actuality it’s all about the Benjamins for virtually everyone except the players, who are college sports’ free-labor revenue generators.

Nearly 50 percent of football players and over 50 percent of men’s basketball players at PWI (primarily White institutions) are Black. A new report released last month shows that Black college football and men’s basketball players collectively over the course of their collegiate careers are virtually robbed of billions.

“How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominately Black Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth,” by Drexel Professor Ellen Staurowsky and National College Players Association Executive Director Ramoji Huma, estimated the fair market values for football players. They put that estimate at approximately $1.3 million over four years, with another $2.2 million over four years for men’s basketball players.

Photo courtesy of Drexel University Ellen Staurowsky

If each player invested just $100,000 of a “salary” annually into a retirement account for at least 40 years at 6% interest, they could later accrue over a million dollars, the report said. “[The players] are deprived of their fair share of the revenues they produce for the college sport industry,” according to the report.

Staurowsky, a former college AD and longtime advocate, has done previous studies on how college sport financially uses the players. Her latest study “tries to connect the dots in terms of racial implications and economic injustice,” she said.

According to her report, between 2017-2020 approximately $10 billion that should have been directed to the players instead went to the usual college sport robber barons. If the college players had gotten their fair share, this would have given them a good start toward building generational wealth, the report noted.

As defined by MarketWatch, generational wealth is assets—real estate, stocks, a business or other monetary value—that is passed down from one generation to the next. However, Whites on average have more wealth than Blacks regardless of education level achieved. The Brookings Institute found that a White family’s median net worth is $171,000 compared to $17,150 for Black families.

“The vast majority of athletes are not going pro, and 98 percent of these athletes are at the height of their earning power while they are in college,” Staurowsky said. “The reason why this is so important is that these athletes while in college should be realizing their value rather than having it stripped away from them.”

As the cries for systemic change grow in this country, Staurowsky wants paying college athletes to join that list of changes needed. “I pray that this will be the time to make meaningful change,” she said. “We have to make things better.”