clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How much is a Wildcat worth? NerdWallet estimates what NCAA players are worth.

New, 29 comments

The average value of a player at a top-25 NCAA Basketball school is just slightly under the NBA's minimum salary.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Student athletes don't get paid -- a fact that could change in the future with the moves being made by the "Power 5" leagues under the NCAA's Division I 'autonomy' scheme -- but until they do, the discussion of athlete value is purely an academic event. The folks over at NerdWallet took a look at the projected value of athletes at top Division I basketball programs in their hypothetical "revenue-sharing" universe for the second year in a row.

NCAA schools generated total revenue of over $1.6 billion, and under the NerdWallet model, 50% of that revenue (generated from tickets, television, merchandise, etc.) was "shared" with the student-athletes that drive college basketball.

The average value of a men's basketball player at Villanova was estimated by the study to be $438 thousand, based on a total revenue figure of $10.5 million. For comparison, the top revenue school (Louisville) had an average player value of $1.3 million. The study also allocated that money unevenly by player performance, and while they didn't break out the numbers for Villanova's roster, they did tell us that the highest-"paid" player in the nation would be Duke's Jahlil Okafor at $2.6 million.

Schools like Villanova likely could never pay it's roster an average of over $400 thousand each without incurring a heavy loss on the basketball balance sheet. The Wildcats do run a profitable program, but the margins are just a little too tight. The television money is good in the new Big East, but Villanova doesn't generate massive game-day revenues like Louisville does.

Despite being outside the top-10 and a somewhat lesser national brand (though, not that much) than neighbors at Kentucky, the Louisville Cardinals lead the nation in men's basketball revenue. They do it without regard for television contracts and it has almost everything to do with their ability to pull massive revenue figures out of their game-days at the state-of-the-art KFC Yum! Center arena.

For the Wildcats, the revenue flows well when they can host bigger games at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, but the majority of Villanova home games are hosted elsewhere. The on-campus Pavilion is small, uncomfortable, and lacks amenities like high-priced luxury seating, catering, and concessions. If the 'Cats were able to generate more revenue from their arena situation, the per-player value cited here would likely increase.