Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My November Daily Camera Column: Going Pro in Sports

In my column this month for The Daily Camera I look at data on prospects for top-level men's basketball and football players to make it to the pros. The NCAA, in its ubiquitous commercial (shown above), tells us that the vast majority of college athletes go pro in something other than sport.

While this is true, it does not accurately represent what happens at the highest levels of college sport. It turns out that in top-level football and basketball programs scholarship athletes have a considerable chance to "go pro" in their sport. In the article I show numbers indicating that perhaps 20% of Power 5 football players go pro and 59% of D1 basketball players go pro.

These numbers raise some important questions about how we at universities structure athletic programs. We are in fact preparing such students for professions in athletics. They are not simply college students who do sports on the side.

Here are some links for those interested in digging deeper.

  • The analysis depends on the excellent work done by Nick Harris (@sportingintel)  in the Global Sports Salaries Report. Here is the latest version. The data that I use comes from the 2015 edition.
  • I developed the analysis over the past few years via several blog posts and commentaries: NFL analysis (here) and NBA analysis (here and here), 
  • Here is the NCAA data on basketball players that go pro, and here is the data for several other sports,
  • Finally, here is a recent op-ed I had in the NYT on the idea of degrees in sport in big-time athletic programs.
Comments/questions welcomed!


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