One of the most popular proposals for paying college athletes involves giving players a share of the revenue from jersey sales. After all, the athletic department must be making millions off all those jerseys you see people wearing on game day, right? And the only explanation for a fan wearing a No. 2 Texas A&M jersey is because they want to wear Johnny Manziel's number, right?
What if I told you Texas A&M made just $59,690 on jersey sales for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013?
That's correct. The Texas A&M athletic department received just $59,690 for jersey sales last year, Heisman Trophy winner and all. That number isn't just football, either. It includes basketball, baseball, cycling and all other jersey sales. Collegiate Licensing Company handles the licensing for Texas A&M and does not break jersey revenue down by sport or by number in its schools reports. That means we don't know how much revenue was generated from football jerseys or the No. 2 worn by Heisman Trophy winner Manziel.
The bottom line is that athletic departments aren't getting rich off jersey sales. Texas A&M receives just 10 percent of the wholesale price for jerseys under its contract with adidas. If the jersey is sold through the campus bookstore, they make about 15 percent, but 92 percent of all merchandise is sold somewhere other than the campus bookstore.
Jersey sales accounted for just 1.53 percent of Texas A&M's licensing revenue last fiscal year. Out of the total of $3.9 million, the largest source of revenue was $750,000 in men's T-shirt sales. SEC co-branded product was also popular, eclipsing jersey sales at $102,000.
The situation isn't unique to Texas A&M. Wisconsin, whose licensing revenues also totaled $3.9 million, says just 1.23 percent, or $47,437, of its licensing revenue last year was derived from jersey sales. Similarly, West Virginia says $56,728 of its licensing revenue last year came from jersey sales, 1.62 percent of its $3.3 million total licensing revenue.
In the ACC, Clemson saw less than one percent of its $1.75 million licensing revenue come in from jersey sales, a grand total of $12,375. Cal estimates its jersey sales account for 1.5 percent of total licensing revenue, but it's tough to give an exact figure because the report it receives from Nike includes jerseys in a category with helmets, swim caps and other team gear.
"Jerseys are not insignificant in years where a current player has Heisman potential or when an alumnus goes to the Super Bowl or NBA Finals. But in general, it's not a big item," Cal licensing director Dan Perkins said.
Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing for 157 universities, says jersey sales account for an average of 1.1 percent of all licensing revenue for the schools it represents. The largest sources of licensing revenue for these schools are from T-shirts, women's apparel and fleece apparel.
Even if the NCAA allowed schools to share jersey revenue with student-athletes, we're not talking life-changing money. First, at many schools, licensing revenue is split between the athletic department and the university. For example, all of North Carolina's licensing money is collected by the university, not the athletic department. At Virginia Tech, 25 percent net of expenses is transferred to the athletic department from the university, which amounted to approximately $300,000 last year.
Since the university's brand is part of the jersey (and jerseys are often sold with inactive numbers, like Texas A&M's No. 12), student-athletes would surely have to split the money with some combination of the university and athletic department. Then there's the issue of whether jersey sales money would go directly to the student-athletes whose numbers are used on jerseys sold at retail or if those funds would be divided between all student-athletes.
For the ease of the math, let's say the split between the university and student-athletes was 50/50. Texas A&M's count of student-athletes last year was 674, according to data filed with the Department of Education.
Each student-athlete at Texas A&M last year would have received $44.28 if jersey sales were shared with all student-athletes. Wisconsin's 878 student-athletes would have each received $27.01. West Virginia's 533 student-athletes would have each received $53.22. Clemson's 472 would have come in at just $13.11 each.
Of course, revenue from jersey sales could go directly to the student-athlete whose number was associated. Universities only choose to produce jerseys with a few selected numbers each year, however. What if a student-athlete didn’t think he or she was getting the same opportunities as others? Would the potential for an issue be enough to keep universities from producing jerseys with the numbers of current players, effectively reducing their risk of a lawsuit? Perhaps.
Following revelations by ESPN's Jay Bilas earlier this week in which current student-athletes' names -- such as Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney -- were available in search results on the NCAA's online store, Mark Emmert announced Thursday the NCAA will no longer be in the business of selling jerseys. This doesn't impact the ability of schools to continue to sell jerseys, but it's foreseeable they might get out of the business of selling jerseys with numbers corresponding to current student-athletes if push came to shove.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the senior director of advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, says she thinks there's an issue bigger than simply how to divide the money.
"If the school says they want to give athletes extra money on top of any educational model -- on top of tuition, room and board and cost of attendance -- then they're employees. That's your biggest problem, not Title IX."
In addition to added costs, including payroll taxes, 401(k) plans and insurance, student-athletes becoming employees could put the athletic department's, and potentially even the university's, tax-exempt status at risk.
With a number of unresolved issues, and the relatively small amount of money at stake, it's tough to imagine student-athletes will be pocketing money from jersey sales anytime soon.