Vince Young’s $5 million donation to UT

dollar%20roll%20111307.jpgMichael Lewis (previous posts here) — author of Moneyball and The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (previous post here) — pens this NY Times op-ed in which he addresses a frequent topic on this blog — that is, the shameful economic exploitation of athletes by many universities in the business of big-time college football (see previous posts here, here and here):

College footballís best trick play is its pretense that it has nothing to do with money, that itís simply an extension of the universityís mission to educate its students. Were the public to view college football as mainly a business, it might start asking questions. For instance: why are these enterprises that have nothing to do with education and everything to do with profits exempt from paying taxes? Or why donít they pay their employees?
This is maybe the oddest aspect of the college football business. Everyone associated with it is getting rich except the people whose labor creates the value. At this moment there are thousands of big-time college football players, many of whom are black and poor. They perform for the intense pleasure of millions of rabid college football fans, many of whom are rich and white. The worldís most enthusiastic racially integrated marketplace is waiting to happen. [. . .]
If the N.C.A.A. genuinely wanted to take the money out of college football itíd make the tickets free and broadcast the games on public television and set limits on how much universities could pay head coaches. But the N.C.A.A. confines its anti-market strictures to the players ó and God help the interior lineman who is caught breaking them. Each year some player who grew up with nothing is tempted by a boosterís offer of a car, or some cash, and is never heard from again. [. . .]
Last year the average N.F.L. team had revenue of about $200 million and ran payrolls of roughly $130 million: 60 percent to 70 percent of a teamís revenues, therefore, go directly to the players. Thereís no reason those numbers would be any lower on a college football team ó and thereís some reason to think theyíd be higher. Itís easy to imagine the Universities of Alabama ($44 million in revenue), Michigan ($50 million), Georgia ($59 million) and many others paying the players even more than they take in directly from their football operations, just to keep school spirit flowing. (Go Dawgs!)
But letís keep it conservative. In 2005, the 121 Division 1-A football teams generated $1.8 billion for their colleges. If the colleges paid out 65 percent of their revenues to the players, the annual college football payroll would come to $1.17 billion. A college football team has 85 scholarship players while an N.F.L. roster has only 53, and so the money might be distributed a bit differently. [. . .]
A star quarterback, . . . might command as much as 8 percent of his college teamís revenues. For instance, in 2005 the Texas Longhorns would have paid Vince Young roughly $5 million for the season. In quarterbacking the Longhorns free of charge, Young, in effect, was making a donation to the university of $5 million a year ó and also, by putting his health on the line, taking a huge career risk.
Perhaps he would have made this great gift on his own. The point is that Vince Young, as the creator of the economic value, should have had the power to choose what to do with it. Once the market is up and running players who want to go to enjoy the pure amateur experience can continue to play for free.

Read the entire piece.

3 thoughts on “Vince Young’s $5 million donation to UT

  1. Your points re the commercialism and cynicism of the college game are of course well taken — coaches’ salaries are well past obscene — but, alas, irrelevant. Pay the football and basketball jocks and you’ll soon be required to pay those in the non-revenue sports. As impressive as your aggregate numbers sound, they won’t allow for paying everybody including the girls golf team. If you don’t believe the Title IX lobby would prevail you haven’t been paying attention. Vince wouldn’t get $5 million; he’d get the same as the wrestlers and gymnasts and softball players. Face it, this is America. Radical egalitarianism is our creed.

  2. In all, Texas received more than $5M from VY. The National Championship vaulted Texas to the top of collegiate merchandising for the following 2 years. Consider all that extra revenue.
    And if they manage to get into another BCS bowl game this year, there is another big payday. Texas is an attractive candidate because they have a good record, won a title so recently, and are again in that upper echelon of college football “brand names” (that title is going to probably buy them 3-5 years of getting the benefit of the doubt). And it is all because of VY scrambling into the end zone in the Rose Bowl.

  3. I agree that what Vince Young did for UT sports revenue was incredible but saying he made a donation is utterly ludicrous. In the same breath we speak of how much he did for UT, he did get a chance to take advantage of 5 years of free education (he chose to bypass his senior season but he had the chance for 5 years since he was redshirted). I say “chance” because based on every report I have seen or heard, he didn’t take advantage of it. Saying VY is owed all this money is like saying a Partner in a law firm deserves every penny that his practice brings in. Well then how are the paralegals or legal secretaries supported. For every “front man” whether it is rock star sales person, partner in a firm, star collegiate athlete or CEO, there are a myriad of non-revenue producing pieces behind the scenes that make it all happen. Plus, Universities (like the other poster said) have as many as 35 intercollegiate sports to support with one or two major revenue producing sports. The system isn’t broken. We just need to put it in perspective.

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