According to the latest numbers, Florida high schools produce the highest number of division one college football players of any state*. However, Florida ranks 41st in America in terms of funding per student in public schools*, and STEM education is the most expensive form of education and often suffers the most when cuts are made to school budgets. The average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years, so although the average NFL salary is $1.9M, most players never receive anything close to that pay day as most exit the league without ever earning over $1M per year (rookie contracts are usually around $365k, and only increase by $5-10k/year unless the player is exceptional). According to a 2013 study conducted by the NCAA, only 0.08% of high school football players will actually make it to the NFL.
STEM majors, on average earn $65k/year, translating to around 1.5 times the average wage in Florida ($40k), which happens to land at 39th in the nation, placing it strikingly close to Florida’s ranking in public-school funding per student (where Florida lands 41st as previously mentioned). According to a 2016 analysis*, not a single athlete cracked the top 100 richest people in the world list, but more than 25% of the people on that list studied a STEM field – with engineering leading the way. However, the ‘caring more about sports than education’ trend isn’t unique to only Florida public high schools – an analysis of federal and school data found that on average NCAA Division 1 sports schools spend as much as six times more per athlete than they spend to educate students*, and between 2005 and 2010 spending in athletic departments grew twice as fast as academic spending on a per-student basis*.
America has more professional sports leagues than any country in the world, and an underperforming educational system when compared to other developed countries. Despite having the highest GDP in the world, America does not crack the top 20 in Science, Math or Reading at age 15*. Unfortunately, the culture here in America places more emphasis on sports than education, and we are somehow seeing that bias play out in the educational system itself. Originally, sports were introduced to schools to teach children how to work together while staying in shape and encouraging a competitive atmosphere. What was intended to complement a good education, has begun to replace good education here in America.
In 2016, the NCAA earned revenue of nearly $1B, despite its status as a nonprofit, while its players remain unpaid throughout their time in college. So even though less than 0.1% of high school football players will ever actually become professional football players with an average career of 3.3 years before 78% will file for bankruptcy within two years after their career is over*, as a society we seem to continually emphasize sports over education. In the United Kingdom, where college sports are not treated like an industry but as a complement to education, the average cost of a year in university translates to a little over $5k. In America, where college sports are often just as popular as professional sports, the average cost of one year at a public university is $20k. Therefore, it would be fair to say that here in America we pay four times as much for university in order to receive more sports and less education.
But to get back on track, in a country that already prioritizes sports over education, Florida seems to be leading the way as it produces a relatively high number of athletes from high school while spending relatively very little per student on education when compared to other states. Throughout the world we see a pattern of communities with higher poverty rates having higher crime rates, as people resort to illegal means to provide for themselves and their family due to harsh circumstances and the lack of opportunity. We have a relatively high crime rate in Florida, relatively low funding per student (i.e. lower quality STEM education), relatively high number of high school athletes, and a relatively low median income. In my humble opinion, the evidence and logic seem to suggest that if you want to lower the crime rate and raise median income, either divert some funds from sports to STEM education, or introduce more money into the public education system and ensure it goes to STEM.
- SB Nation: “NCAA map ranks states by how many football players become D1 recruits” – Alex Kirshner (4/17)
- Gazette Review: “Average NFL Player Salary – 2017 Update” – Steven Kahn (3/17)
- Education Law Center & Rutgers Graduate School of Education: “Is School Funding Fair: A National Report Card” (6th Edition, Jan 2017)
- CNBC: “Here’s what America’s next generation of self-made millionaires will have in common” – Lyanne Alfaro, March 2017
- Forbes: “The Richest People in The World 2017”
- USA Today: “Division 1 schools spend more on athletes than education” (July, 2013)
- Business Insider: “The latest ranking of top countries in math, reading and science is out – and the US didn’t crack the top 10” Dec 2016
- CNBC: “Here’s how much it costs to go to college in the US compared to other countries” – Abigail Hess, July 2017