When it comes to college sports, a lot of money is at stake.
A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board to allow players at Northwestern University to vote to unionize, coupled with a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA arguing student-athletes should be paid, has shaken the college sports world, threatening to disrupt a multi-billion dollar business.
The NCAA, a nonprofit, has long argued it's an amateur model, the athletes are students first and they are compensated through scholarships.
But that defense is challenged when, after he and his team became the national champions of men's basketball, University of Connecticut player Shabazz Napier opened up about going to bed hungry as a student-athlete.
"We're definitely blessed to get scholarships to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn't cover everything," Napier told a group of reporters, adding, "I don't think student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but ... there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I'm starving."
The Most Profitable Teams Make Ridiculous Amounts Of Money
Despite UConn winning the national title in both men's and women's basketball this year, Napier plays for a program that actually loses money. According to FindTheBest, a website that collected data submitted to the Education Department's Office of Postsecondary Education, UConn's basketball program ran $2.36 million in the red in the 2013 fiscal year. (Still, UConn men's head coach Kevin Ollie makes $1.25 million annually.)
However, many other hoops teams collect millions in profit.
And yet, the real money is in college football.
At Northwestern, where players are considering unionizing, football and basketball are the only two sports bringing in cash -- and no small amount, either. The Illinois school's football program collects $8.4 million in profits annually, while basketball nabs $3.9 million per year, according to FindTheBest.
To explain how much money is available, see football powerhouse University of Texas at Austin. If the university paid each of its Texas Longhorn football players a salary based off Texas' minimum wage, amounting to $13,920 a year, it would still leave $80 million of profit on the table, according to calculations using FindTheBest's data on profits. If the same were to happen at Northwestern, based on Illinois' current minimum wage, it would still leave almost $7 million in profit untouched.
Of course, players aren't paid a dime, unlike the coaches.
Comparing Coaching Salaries With The Rest Of The Nonprofit World
The head coaches of three football teams -- Texas' Charlie Strong, Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema -- all collect more than $5 million a year. Six other head coaches make roughly $4 million annually, ranging $3.9 million to $4.8 million, according to USA Today's salary database.
Comparing the salaries of coaches at these "nonprofit" sports programs to those of executives at nonprofits more broadly,
Strong, Saban and Bielema each earn approximately twice as much as the "most overpaid" nonprofit executive, according to the Fiscal Times: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation chief investment officer Laurance Hoagland Jr., who pulls in $2.5 million annually.
The roughly $5 million salary these coaches earn is also 12 times more than the median compensation for nonprofit CEOs in 2012: $417,989, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Chronicle of Philanthropy additionally said that seven nonprofits paid their chief executives in excess of a million last year, along with 27 other groups that provided pay for 2011. No college president in the country earns as much as these coaches, either.
And that's without even mentioning Duke University's head basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who makes nearly $10 million a year, or the 34 other millionaire men's college hoops coaches, or the nine athletic directors making a million or more annually.
The Highest Paid Public Employee In All But 11 States Is A College Football Or Basketball Coach
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) May 10, 2013
Assistant coaches make bank, too.
At UT Austin, a number of assistant coaches and coordinators earn close to half a million a year, according to the Texas Tribune.
And for good measure, let's not forget that while he's not a public employee, NCAA President Mark Emmert makes over $1.7 million annually, for running a nonprofit.
How Do The Ever-Growing Coaches' Salaries Compare To Professors' Pay?
As the NCAA likes to remind people, the players are in school for an education first and are on the team for the love of the sport. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald considers himself an educator, "teaching life lessons." Though coaches teach courses at some schools, this isn't true for a majority of universities known for their athletics, or for Fitzgerald.
College professors have salaries that pale in comparison to the coaches of sports teams. Professors earn between $50,032 and $126,981 annually, according to the American Association of University Professors. Adjuncts, or part-time, non-tenure track instructors, make around $20,000 to $25,000 a year.
That pay gap between educators and coaches is also getting worse, and it's not just limited to just basketball and football.
Even the head coaches of NCAA Division I tennis, soccer and golf squads are seeing their pay increase 3 to 4 times faster than the average professor, according to AAUP.