- Associated Press - Monday, September 12, 2011

The average fair market value of top-tier college football and men’s basketball players is over $100,000 each, and the athletes are entitled to at least a portion of that, a new report from an advocacy group argues.

Instead of getting what they’re worth, the players receive athletic scholarships that don’t cover the full cost of attending school, leaving many of them living below the poverty line, says the report, “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport.”

A national college athletes’ advocacy group and a sports management professor calculate in the report that if college sports shared their revenues the way pro sports do, the average Football Bowl Subdivision player would be worth $121,000 per year, while the average basketball player at that level would be worth $265,000.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report ahead of its official release, scheduled for Tuesday.

Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who heads the National College Players Association, wrote the report with Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky. The association is an advocacy group for college athletes which Huma says has more than 14,000 members - about half of whom are enrolled.

Huma and Staurowsky argue that the players should receive a portion of new revenues, like TV contracts, to be put in an “educational lockbox.” Players could tap those funds to help cover educational costs if they exhaust their athletic eligibility before they graduate - or receive the money with no strings attached upon graduating. They also propose that athletes be free to seek commercial deals, such as endorsements, with some of the money from that going to the lockbox, and the rest available for the athlete’s immediate use.

They also say that schools should pay for costs beyond the tuition, student fees and room and board covered by athletic scholarships. The report calculates the shortfall for the full cost of attending college - when things such as clothing and emergency trips home are added in - at $952 to $6,127, depending on the college. That leaves students on full athletic scholarships living below the poverty line at around 85 percent of the schools, the report claims, by comparing the value of the scholarship’s room and board to the federal poverty guideline for a single individual.

Huma acknowledged that calculation does not take into account financial assistance students might get from home, or summer jobs, but he said most athletes are pressured to attend voluntary summer workouts, making it hard to get outside work.

The report calls for action from Congress to achieve some of these goals, arguing that federal intervention is necessary because college presidents aren’t in a position to take meaningful reform. The NCAA, which puts the athletes’ amateur status at the center of its mission, would oppose much of what the report proposes.

In a statement Monday, the NCAA said it had not yet reviewed the report, but that President Mark Emmert and university presidents made it clear at last month’s retreat - a meeting called in the wake of a run of scandals in college football - that they were eager to provide grants covering the full cost of attending college. The NCAA added that the Committee on Academic Performance is meeting this week to discuss the issue, and will make recommendations to the Division I Board of Directors next month.

“Dr. Emmert has been similarly clear that paying student-athletes a salary is in no way on the table,” the NCAA said.

The report argues that playing big-time football and basketball is a full-time job, and an NCAA study released this year backs that up. It found

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