The 5.5 Million Dollar Man (TMD on Gardner)

Submitted by JeepinBen on December 9th, 2013 at 10:23 AM,1

Analysis by The Michigan Daily shows that in direct revenues, a player like Gardner can add $5.5 million to the University per year. In free advertising alone, Gardner generating more than $8 million through media exposure over one month.


The current NCAA system, which prohibits monetary compensation to student athletes, makes it impossible to precisely evaluate a player’s market value. But as the debate over player compensation continues, the question is as important as ever.

We've had the "pay the players" topic of conversation here quite a few times, but this article from the Michigan Daily puts some dollar amounts on just how much some of those top tier student athletes really make for the university, and it's staggering. Michigan spends about $275K on each football player every year - but that includes the almost $9M spent on coaches' salaries. I'm all for a stipend, or an Olympic model. Still the best line I read (elsewhere, Bacon?) was how the NCAA spends millions employing people just to make sure that the students don't get a dime.



December 9th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

Too add to the counter argument, why is it that I've never heard it get brought up that these players get "free" weight training, drill training, and greater knowledge of X & Os (on top of a free education and room & board).

In reality, not all schools will be able to afford playing their players. If they want to make money, have the NFL create a minor league. Colleges will still be here and still field a team irregardless.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

I think a minor league that could take players directly out of high school would absolutely kill college football.  You can't fill 100,000 seat stadiums with just the guys that are not going to go pro. This is a far cry from college basketball.   And yes I am aware that that perspective seems to suggest that college players should get paid as they are filling that stadium but they do receive compensation, the college is the minor league that provides that training along with a degree in case football does not work out.  But taking the players with serious talent out of the sport entirely would end college football.   You have to find a middle ground that does not nuke college football because it truly is too big to fail.  Like I said below, turn the 3 year rule to 2 and things would quiet down.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

I don't think you're correct in saying that it would end college football. M fans would still pack in the fans who want to watch Michigan men represent the school over the names on their back. And it's not like all NFL talent would be gone from a team.

Plus maybe Michigan football can actually be a powerhouse again.



December 9th, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

 Kids could have played in the UFL, XFL, Canadian and arena league football right out of high school. I know some of the leagues have failed already but with the incredible interest in recruiting now a days, if some of the top recruits from high school had went directly to the UFL who knows what could have happend.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:05 AM ^

and there would still be some interest in college football, but not to the degree you are seeing now.  To a certain extent, I may enjoy the game more without all of the hoopla over individual talent and accolades.  But I think the sport would shrink a great deal, and I doubt you could fill Michigan stadium weekly without big time talent taking the field.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

but obviously the ticket prices would have to reduce drastically...and probably eliminate many of the non revenue sports or find another way to pay for them. I personally do not watch the NFL much anymore, and would have no interest in watching a developmental league. There is a reason the USFL and other attempts at other professional leagues have fan interest.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:18 AM ^

paying not playing, geez autocorrect (or fat fingers)

I guess I was just thinking that if all the NCAA teams were handicapped by losing their best players to a minor league, then you'd probably not notice much of a difference.  Team will still score.  Teams will still defend.  In this scenario, I would think that big schools like Michigan would end up getting the better talent (just no super-star).  We'd end up fielding teams like MSU does every year, with 2* and 3* talent.  It'll all be about development for each program.

Blue Mike

December 9th, 2013 at 2:43 PM ^

What you most likely will find if the NFL goes to a development league is that initially a lot of good, young players will go that route, but after a couple of seasons where a large chunk of these players wash out because they aren't ready to be professionals yet, more players will go back to the college route.  Some of the truly top talent would go pro out of high school, but the rest would go to school.

Look at the NBA.  When kids could go pro at 18, initially everyone did.  Then both sides realized it wasn't a surefire thing, and more and more kids chose college.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

that way.  Compensating college players directly from the University is the straw that cannot break.  Amatuer sports may be nothing more than a facade but it is one that needs to remain in place or there will be no more college football.  All that would have to happen is for the NFL to change its 3 year rule to 2 and this would no longer be an issue.

The Crootin' Crouton

December 9th, 2013 at 10:42 AM ^

Damn this argument starts and everyone leaves out a KEY factor.  Sure, power conference football and basketball players make money for their schools.  Sure, they are probably worth more to the schools than their scholarships.  But if you're going to pay Devin Gardner, guess who else has to be paid?  The third-string women's field hockey goalie.  And the 5th best men's cross country runner.  And every tennis player, swimmer, golfer, gymnast, etc.  Well, you say, Michigan certainly brings in enough revenue to give these poor kids a little stipend, right?  Guess what, only 23/228 Div 1 Althetic Departments even covered their own expenses.  So, you'd essentially be forcing non-student athletes, already paying ever higher tuitions to pay these (often on scholarship already) student-athletes wages.

No thanks.  Schools would likely either cut their sports programs entirely, or only keep football+basketball and enough women's sports to keep Title 9 happy.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:14 AM ^

Just because certain players get paid does not mean that ALL of them need to be paid.  The third-string goalie and cross country runners aren't making $5.5 million for the university!  And, part of that $5.5 million is going to their scholarships.  It would be possible to devise a system where some neutral body evaluates a player's worth to the university/athletic program, and the player can get a cut.  At the very least, the players could get some percent of jersey sales with their numbers on it, or permit the universities to sell jerseys with names on the back.  I just think there is some middle ground where some players could be paid above scholarship level, and others don't have to be.  It mirrors the real world - it's not like all NFL players are paid the same amount.  You don't have to pay Tom Brady the same as the practice squad offensive guard.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

OT to the purpose of your post...The fifth best cross country runner is a pretty key person. In cross country the top 5 runners count towards your team score while the 6th and 7th serve to raise other teams' scores. This guy would be quite a bit more than a 8th or 9th (essentailly backups in cross country) best runner in a world where cross country was interesting enough to have professional teams.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:29 AM ^

Doesn't cost the school a dime. As someone said below, Gardner can't get paid for his talents, or doing anything else. What if Devin wanted to model the #98 jersey in an adidas commercial? No cash. Why not?

Right now there are like 75 people that Michigan DOES pay to make sure that Devin doesn't get a dime from his likeness.


December 9th, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

This would simply invite rich boosters to offer kids the incentive of getting paid if they attend the bosters' schools.  The outcome of college football seasons would rest on the ability of the various schools' boosters to out-promise the competition.  Who wants that?

I don't think a semi-pro league would cut into college football much at all.  Survey after survey has shown that college fans like to watch their teams, not individual players.  If these top players are worth so much, then a semi-pro league ios absolutely inevitable, because there is money laying there on the table to be picked up (get Garner and 40 guys like him, and your team makes 200 million dollars a year).

I suspect, though, that gardner isn't really worth $5.5 million a year; that, if, say, a walk-on like nick Sheridan played football for the University of Michigan, the stadium would still fill, sports shows would still talk about Michigan football (and mention the quarterback), etc.  I also suspect that, if Devin  Gardner played for, say, Toledo, he wouldn't bring in $5.5 million to the school.

In short, i think the Daily and Joyce Julius and Associates reached a conclusion and then tried to justify it with bogus analysis.


December 9th, 2013 at 2:04 PM ^

"I suspect, though, that gardner isn't really worth $5.5 million a year; that, if, say, a walk-on like nick Sheridan played football for the University of Michigan, the stadium would still fill, sports shows would still talk about Michigan football (and mention the quarterback), etc."




The interesting analysis here isn't how much Gardner generates for the university - it's how much he generates vs. a generic player in the same position.


Give me a "Value Over Replacement Player" kind of analysis and it might mean something.


December 10th, 2013 at 12:47 AM ^

I think of it as a "Premium for Elite Winning Program Maintenance" or "Don't Screw It Up Premium".

Minor leagues work in other sports, but they don't draw the crowds or TV audiences that college or big league teams draw. 

Part of the solution would be to give the players their choice by letting them go to the NFL or NFL D-league as early as they want. (Or maybe one-and-done.)

That said, the same logic for a Brady Hoke/Urban Meyer/Mark Dantonio versus one of the local DIII coaches should apply to Devin Gardner over Nick Sheridan.  As we've seen most ticket holders aren't going to be happy paying over $100/ticket to watch their team lose.  Premium talent supports that price-gouging.  The premium for Devin is certainly more than just a football player's time-commitment adjusted education.

I highly doubt that Devin Gardner generates a marginal $5.5 million, but I think his contributions should be evaluated in light of Brady Hoke's ~$4 million salary.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

If someone wants to pay Devin Gardner to endorse their shoes, there is literally no reason he shouldn't be able to cash that check. If I can make money in college using the skills I'm learning to (for example) write an article on a website, it's ridiculous that athletes can't do the same.

I'm very anti colleges paying players directly, though. I've never seen anyone propose a way do it that doesn't have massive downsides. And the truth is, the vast majority of these kids get more from the school (free education, free food, free housing, etc.) than they ever make back via on field contributions. The few exceptional stars, though, should be able to capitalize on 3rd party opportunities. 


December 9th, 2013 at 5:14 PM ^

I just see this as a slippery slope. You allow that and then you have boosters promising recruits money for doing this or that. Come to this school, wear this arm band, and we'll pay you.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

This argument is never made:
How much does the Michigan brand have to do with the money that student-athletes bring in to the institution? Over one hundrend year of football, alumnae base (size and wealth), the institution in one of the ten largest states, etc.

How much Devin Gardner had pulled in if he was the quarterback at Arkansas State? How much if he was at Eastern Michigan?


December 9th, 2013 at 10:52 AM ^

How much would Tony Romo draw in ratings if he played in the CFL instead of for the Cowboys?  It would be very different, yet we don't find it unfair that he makes millions playing for Dallas...You can say, well, Romo earned the right to play in Dallas instead of Montreal b/c of his talents, but you can say the same thing re: Gardner and Michigan/Arkansas State.


December 9th, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

I don't know tons of people bought Tate's #5 jersey. In reality he did next to nothing besides beating an equally bad ND team in his freshman year. When I attend games today nearly six ears later I still see fans wearing that #5 jersey. You know they purchased it sometime in the brief year and a half, or so, when his name was still relevant. To me at least that seems to prove he point that fans will purchase any Michigan qb's jersey.

The next season those same folks were buying up #16s like hotcakes.


December 9th, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

Look at how many people are already pulling some level of support from Michigan football due to the struggles of the past several years.  I also suspect that Tate Forcier jerseys were purchased when he was in his on-the-cover-of-Sports-Illustrated honeymoon phase. 


December 9th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

This is the crux of the counterargument. I'm not saying students shouldn't be paid, it is certainly jarring to think about how much money coaches and higher ups are making compared to the small stipend of the students (yes full ride scholarship, I know I know...but that's nothing compared to multimillion dollar coaches)...but there are some very serious issues to take into account, and I have yet to hear a solution that will work for the Michigans, Alabamas, Texas's of the world as well as the Akrons, EMUs, and SDSUs of the world. And that's not even taking into account other sports.


December 9th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

won't be resolved here, but.....  Let's not forget 2 things: 1) if not for the existence of college football, of which the sheen of amaturism isa huge part, Gardner's football talents are worth whatever some pro league would pay (not much at this point).  This cannot be said about the "existence" of the NFL which would leave a market void that would no-doubt be filled.  The closer college football comes to being viewed as AAA baseball or OHL hockey, the less it's worth.   2) Gardner's value as evaluated only works for 10 or 20 schools.  Is he worth $5.5M at Central MI or Vandy or Montana, or Minny?  I suspect not.  Therefore, it seems the M brand is selling as much as the Gardner brand.  No doubt an athlete occassionally supercedes his/her team (Manziel), but these are outlying cases and don't reflect that any of 30-50 quarterbacks could likely play starting QB for Michigan and be responsible for all these $millions.