Study: Five-Star Football Recruits Worth $650K

Andy Berg Headshot

A recent study from Ohio State has ventured to quantify the value of a star football recruit to the university’s athletic department. 

According to the study, which was conducted by Trevon Logan, a professor of economics, and Stephen Bergman, a former undergraduate student at Ohio State, a five-star football recruit is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $650,000.

The study tracked recruiting rankings from Rivals and football revenue from FBS programs during a 10-year period (2002-12).

“We found a significant impact of getting a five-star recruit on the number of wins and likelihood of making a premier bowl game,” Logan told The Blade. “The schools have every good reason to want to be in the recruiting game. They ought to want these five-star players. They really do help them. It's the difference between making the playoffs and making a nice bowl game. If you want to be a big-time program, you do need to understand this recruiting game.”

The study found that four-star recruits generated about $350,000 for the university, and three-stars increased revenue by about $150,000. Two-star recruits were actually a detriment, as they actually reduced revenue by $13,000.

The study is slated to be published in the Journal of Sport Economics.

In terms of reaching a BCS game, five-star recruits increased the likelihood of that possibility by four percent.

“I don’t think you need our study to show that,” Logan said. “But what are we really talking about when we’re talking about value on a college campus — value to a team, value to a university, value to advertisers? Those are very different constituencies. We’re talking about value to an athletic department and its revenue. That's very different from the value to the university.”

The study is sure to bolster the arguments of those who favor allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. However, David Ridpath, associate professor of sport management at Ohio University and a leading voice on reform in intercollegiate athletics, said he doesn’t believe such a situation would lead to the cutting of other sports.

“Even if we pay players, I've been adamant that I don't believe other sports need to be cut,” Ridpath said. “If you actually start to pay players that would just by economic forces start to bring coaches’ salaries down and you'd look at, do we need to build this new building and this lazy river in the locker room? I think it’s probably likely that athletic directors and presidents, if something like this ever were to happen, would cut sports. They don't even need to do it now during a pandemic, which really is economic dire straits.”

Ridpath thinks doomsday scenarios around paying athletes or allowing them to profit from their name, image and likeness, are overblown.

“I tell people this, you can’t jump the Grand Canyon with a bicycle and adding another hundred feet to isn’t going to change it,” Ridpath told The Blade. “What would actually destroy college sports or keep us from watching college sports? The answer I always give is nothing. We heard the same doom and gloom with the stipend. We heard the same doom and gloom about the Olympics because they didn't quote-unquote use amateurs anymore. We heard the same doom and gloom about Title IX. Title IX was supposed to destroy college athletics, and it hasn’t. While some people try and use it as an excuse, it's only because they want to continue spending money on football and men’s basketball. It’s all about loss of control.”

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