A version of this story appears in the Nov. 14 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
What's behind the mad-dash conference realignments? Money, of course: Big-time college sports are valued north of $4 billion per year. It makes you wonder what the athletes who generate all that cash would be worth if they could openly and freely shop their talents.
We can now offer at least a hint of the answer. We recently teamed with Jeff Phillips and Tyler Williams of MIT Sloan's Entertainment, Media and Sports Club to establish the fair-market value for 10 athletes at Florida: five from football, two from men's basketball and one each from men's tennis, women's soccer and women's gymnastics. To arrive at the dollar amounts, the MIT team first calculated the net income that each Florida sport generated this past season: $57.7M for football, $1.4M for basketball and between -$1.1M and -$1.9M for the other sports. Then, for each sport, Phillips and Williams divided its profits (or losses) among its members based on a number of factors, including each athlete's rank compared to his or her peers. (For the full methodology, see below.) Here's how much the 10 Gators could command in yearly salary if there were an open market for their services.