HOOK THAT MONEY

New study says UT football players would make big money if paid like pros

A new study calculates how much a UT football player is worth to the Longhorns. Spoiler alert: it's a lot. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Originally appeared on CultureMap/Austin.

College athletes don’t collect paychecks the way their counterparts in the pros do. But if they did, University of Texas at Austin football players would score big.

New data from Business Insider indicates the average Longhorn football player would rake in an estimated $666,029 a year, based on the UT football program’s average annual revenue of $120.5 million over the past three years. That’s the highest per-player market value among the country’s 20 most profitable college football programs.

In case you were wondering, UT’s head football coach, Tom Herman, is poised to pull in $28.75 million in basic compensation under his current five-year contract.

Using figures from the U.S. Department of Education and Ellen Staurowsky, a professor at Drexel University’s Center for Sport Management, Business Insidercalculated how much the typical player in each of the top 20 football programs would be worth if he were compensated like an NFL player. Business Insiderarrived at the estimates by applying the current minimum that NFL players receive and splitting that share evenly among each team’s 85 scholarship players.

On average, a player who competes at a school in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (the top tier of college football programs) is worth $163,087 a year, according to Business Insider.

At No. 2 on the list is the University of Alabama, where the average football player is worth $545,357 a year. Next is the University of Michigan ($510,153), followed by the University of Tennessee ($501,260) and the University of Notre Dame ($488,833).

Down the list are two of UT’s most despised foes: the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University. OU ranks eighth, with a per-player value of $450,185, and A&M ranks 14th, with a per-player value of $356,875.

While UT’s standing on the Business Insider list may offer bragging rights for the Longhorns, the university’s football players shouldn’t be banking on a six-figure paycheck, at least in the foreseeable future.

UT President Greg Fenves has been quoted as saying that he “cannot comprehend” how student-athletes could be paid beyond their scholarships. If UT athletes were paid, Fenves fears that alumni would perceive the university as “just another professional sports team.”

State Rep. John Kuempel, a Seguin Republican who played football at UT, sides with Fenves. At a 2015 panel discussion about paying student-athletes, Kuempel said:

“I disagree with having paid players. What is the percentage of people who go on to make money in professional sports? It’s miniscule. Once you start paying athletes, they will not pay attention to what’s going to keep them afloat for the rest of their lives. In the end, sports are there to teach you what to do with the rest of your life.”

Toward the other end of the field on this issue is the National College Players Association. A 2013 study by the association and Drexel University argues that student-athletes — especially football players — aren’t fairly compensated for their market value.

“The business practices of the NCAA and major conferences governing big-time football suggest that they … own the players,” the study says. “Findings from this study offer an indictment of the principle of amateurism used by the NCAA to enforce a system that distributes the wealth generated by big money college sport programs away from the players and redirects it to coaches, administrators, conference commissioners, bowl executives, colleges and universities, and corporate entities.”

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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