On July 1, 2021, only a week after the NCAA changed its approval rules, female college athletes found themselves on billboards in Times Square in New York, launching a clothing line collaboration and for brands including a wireless carrier and a Signed sponsorship deals. Fast Food Chain.
Female college athletes have historically been far more limited in their ability to benefit from their athletic prowess than their male counterparts. As an assistant professor of sports management who conducts research on gender equality in college athletics, I believe the new name, image, and equality rules will begin to level the playing field.
In fact, female college athletes may benefit most from the NCAA change.
During collegiate and professional sports, women are under-represented among players, coaches, administrators and front office workers.
Best of all, the proportion of women working in college and professional sports has remained relatively stable over the past decade, with some high-profile gains at men’s professional league levels.
Men make up about 60% of all NCAA women’s program head coaches and 98% men’s program head coaches. In addition, 76% of Division 1 NCAA athletic directors, the highest administrative role, are held by white men.
These imbalances cause many female college athletes to second-guess their potential to pursue careers in college coaching.
The average player salary in the WNBA is US$130,000, and the minimum wage is $59,000. In comparison, the average NBA salary for the 2021–2022 season is $7.5 million, with a minimum wage of approximately $925,000. The NBA minor league basketball organization, the NBA G League, pays select players $125,000 per season.
Women’s tennis offers players some of the highest player salaries, averaging around $285,000 per season, but salary sums for professional female athletes in other sports fall far short of that starting point.
For professional women’s soccer, the average is $35,000. Professional male soccer players earn about $400,000 on average.
For professional fast-pitch softball, that number drops to just $6,000 per season. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball’s median salary for the 2019 season stood at around $4.2 million.
Therefore, even when female athletes play professionally, they often do not earn enough to make it their only occupation.
Fewer Opportunities to Go Pro
Women college athletes also have fewer opportunities to play their sport at a professional level. That is, it is even more difficult for female college athletes to make a professional team than it is for men.
For example, the WNBA is the most difficult North American professional sports league to earn roster positions within itself, given the total number of teams and the range of rosters. There are only 12 teams in the WNBA, and each roster is limited to 12 players. For comparison, the NBA has 30 teams and the roster allows a total of 15 players, with 29 league teams with no roster limit of up to 13 players.
Despite their limited sporting career prospects, female college athletes are highly marketable. This is evident in the increase in viewership for events such as the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships and the NCAA Women’s College World Series. For the 2020 Women’s College World Series, the average number of viewers per game was approximately 1.2 million, a 10% increase compared to 2019. The 2020 Women’s Gymnastics Finals averaged over 800,000 spectators – five times more than in 2019.
Female college athletes have also been featured on social media users, some of whom have gained hundreds of thousands of followers.
In fact, a 2021 analysis of estimated earnings by marketing platform Opendoors found that eight of the top 10 social media profiles in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight basketball players belonged to female athletes. These numbers were calculated by adding up the total number of his Twitter and Instagram followers.
This equates to higher earning power, as the top two women’s accounts have a potential support value of $382,000 to $965,000 per year. Most of the earning potential is based on sponsored social media posts.
Some female college cheerleaders are already earning upwards of $5,000 per Instagram post, as their sport is not governed by NCAA bylaws.
A similar 2020 analysis by Athletic Director Yu found that, among all college athletes, regardless of sport, more women than men – 14 versus 11 – were among the top 25 earners of support revenue based on social reach. is estimated to be. Annual estimated support capacity for these top female college athletes ranged from $34,000 for Brooke Thomas of Oklahoma State University Track and Field to nearly $500,000 for Madison Kosian of UCLA Gymnastics.
Some of the top female college athletes are preparing for advertising deals by signing contracts with talent management companies. Paige Bueckers, University of Connecticut women’s basketball player; Cameron Brink of Stanford Women’s Basketball; And Sarah Fuller of Vanderbilt Soccer and Soccer are just a few of the college athletes who recently signed with Wasserman, a sports marketing and talent management company based in Los Angeles.
These female college athletes now have a real opportunity to make money from their skills as athletes in a way other professional sports career paths can never guarantee.