The "amateur" system at Power 5 colleges has become an effective system to transfer wealth from poorer—and often Black—athletes to mostly white students and administrators, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The NBER estimates that if the student athletes were allowed to organize in the same way NFL and NBA athletes do, men's football players would get a salary of around $360,000 a year and men's basketball players would get up to $500,000 each. The NBER says top players would likely receive more, with quarterbacks getting an estimated salary of $2.4 million a year, but even the lowest-paid players would receive far more than "the value of the tuition and other aid that players receive today as their only form of compensation." Researchers note that college football and basketball have made more money than pro leagues since 1999.
With revenue from college football and basketball subsidizing "non-revenue sports" and other activities, the player compensation limit ends up shifting "resources away from students who are more likely to be Black and more likely to come from poor neighborhoods towards students who are more likely to be white and come from higher-income neighborhoods," the NBER's study states. With intercollegiate sports, researchers write, "athletic departments have developed into complex commercial enterprises that look far more like professional sports organizations than extracurricular endeavors." Axios reports that the pandemic has inspired players to push for change and while no state currently requires them to be paid, several will start allowing them to profit from their name and image. (Read more NCAA stories.)