The numbers are staggering.
Jadeveon Clowney is a 6-6, 270-pound defensive end with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. With about two dozen sacks and three dozen tackles for loss, the junior from Rock Hill is approaching several South Carolina football records.
Tajh Boyd, a strong-armed quarterback, is second in career touchdown passes among anyone who’s ever played in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The senior from Hampton, Va., also became Clemson’s all-time total offense leader after passing for 311 yards and rushing for 69 yards during Saturday’s 56-7 win over Wake Forest. But football statistics pale in comparison to financial figures: Two leading sports economists estimate that Clowney and Boyd are worth more than $2 million apiece to their respective schools this year.
Add it all up — jersey sales, ad revenue, etc. — and Clowney might be generating $3 million for South Carolina this year, and Boyd $2.5 million for Clemson.
“I would place these two players, both future NFL draftees on top college football revenue teams, to well exceed $2 million annually for their school, all things considered,” said Dr. Robert Brown, a professor of Economics at the University of California at San Marcos who has been studying college athlete values for more than 20 years. “In my opinion, this is a somewhat conservative estimate.”
Raymond Sauer, president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, offered similar value estimates for Clowney and Boyd when queried by The Post and Courier.
“Conservatively, $2 million a year,” said Sauer, an economics professor at Clemson. “Those kinds of players are worth a lot of money. They help the TV contracts blow up like they’ve blown up. Lesser players on lesser teams don’t generate a fraction of the revenue that top players on top teams generate.”
That stardom equals economic impact is nothing new in the entertainment field. That top college athletes might soon get some kind of compensation beyond a scholarship is a relatively new plateau in the long debate. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy winner, recently appeared on the cover of Time magazine with a headline as bold as Johnny Football in mid-scramble: “It’s Time To Pay College Athletes.”
Clowney and Boyd are three-year starters projected as first-round NFL draft picks next May. They share 90th percentile star status — the top range in Brown’s study models — with Manziel.
Brown’s formula, laid out in the Journal of Sports Economics, includes adjustments for a top college athlete’s impact on:
Other program guarantees.
Brown uses terms such as Marginal Revenue Product and Monopsony Exploitation (one buyer of labor) to see if NFL earnings make up for money top players lose because they are not paid in college. The methodology, generally, is how Clowney’s impact on South Carolina’s sellout of the Kentucky game Oct. 5 and Boyd’s influence on cash flow generated from a “GameDay” victory over Georgia get computed.
“It’s difficult to place precise values on individual players,” Brown said, “but we can infer estimates from these ranges.”
Brown’s data crunch does not include jersey sales, though the Palmetto State popularity of orange No. 10 and garnet No. 7 might not be as lucrative as you think. ESPN.com sports business columnist Darren Rovell has reported that colleges earn only about $3 for every $60 jersey sale, and that the top-selling football jerseys — except for Tim Tebow — reach about 1,500 jerseys.
Allow for players to get, say, $2 per jersey and the total take apparently wouldn’t break $3,000.
Brown also doesn’t account for the enormous amount of free advertising stars such as Clowney and Boyd generate in traditional and social media.
Then there are autographs, a real or potential online revenue stream Manziel has either pounced on or ignored, depending on which reports you believe.
“When you go to these fan days at South Carolina or Clemson and all the players are signing, just watch where all the fans go. That’s where the interest is,” said Dr. Thomas H. Regan, a professor in South Carolina’s Department of Sport and Entertainment Management. “You don’t see them at the punter’s station. The largest lines are for quarterbacks or Clowney.” Expectations mean something, too.
Clowney spent the offseason as one of the most hyped defensive players in college football history. Replays of his helmet-popping tackle against Michigan in the Outback Bowl were an ESPN summer staple, and he won an ESPY Award.
Boyd was named ACC preseason player of the year.
“It’s almost a two-phased thing,” Regan said. “It’s not just what these players are accomplishing, it’s about what the media and people on social media perceive that they will do.”
Add minor gains for jersey sales and a major cut of advertising impact. Tweak Clowney’s numbers upward for all the publicity generated from “The Hit.”
Even the unusual names have market value in football showbiz.
“People pick up on that immediately,” Regan said. “I have relatives in Montana and Wyoming who are all aware of Clowney. Then you take a look at someone named Tajh Boyd. The uniqueness of the names, along with their athletic gifts, that’s the perfect storm for recognition.”
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has led the charge in asking that college football players receive stipends beyond their scholarships.
But officials at schools in the considerable shadow of the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit are reluctant to comment extensively on athlete value. O’Bannon is a former UCLA basketball player who started legal action against video game makers, a company that handles licensing agreements with schools and the NCAA, seeking a cut of TV and video game revenue for current and former athletes.
He reached an agreement Thursday against Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Co. The NCAA, however, still is holding out.
Trying to quantify the impact of an individual in a team sport like football is almost impossible, but Clemson benefits from Boyd on and off the field, said Joe Galbraith, Clemson’s Assistant Athletic Director for Communications.
“The way Tajh carries himself in such a quality manner, and the way he represents Clemson, the athletic department, the university, himself and his family, is so valuable to the school,” Galbraith said.
Clowney came to South Carolina as a high-profile recruit and his popularity has only increased, USC Senior Associate Athletics Director Charles Bloom said. “He has become a household name to college football fans, and that has helped us reach areas that we have not have normally gotten into.”
Boyd and Clowney will have to wait until the NFL draft to collect their millions. If major college programs opt to pay players, changes are likely to come in small steps.
“I don’t think it’s imminent,” Sauer said. “There could be a change that incorporates the full cost of attendance and a small stipend, but if the NCAA does that, I don’t think they will differentiate between the 80th scholarship player and a Tajh Boyd or a Jadeveon Clowney. I don’t see the NCAA coming anywhere close to a market compensation system where players like the Boyds and Clowneys get real market value.”