San Jose State: $3,189,884
As big as those numbers are, they could be much higher. In none of its accounting did SI factor in what schools refer to as unallocated expenses. These costs are not sport specific and might include the salaries of administrators and academic counselors, electrical bills or supplies for the training staff. Unable to break down those costs by sport, SI didn't factor them into its analysis.
It is reasonable to assume that with so many athletes and sports dropped, substantial savings in those areas would occur. If, say, Mississippi experienced only a 15% drop in its unallocated expenses it would save an additional $2,412,726. At Oregon ($6,160,779) and Louisville ($2,857,599), the savings would be even greater. Even San Jose State, which spends far less per athlete and overall than the others, would conserve $1,259,777.
It is a testament to how bloated athletic departments have become that SI's model can shave millions of dollars of expenses at four schools without touching a pool of money that accounts for between 34% and 53% of their total spending.
Determining how much of the savings should go to the athletes is tricky. Some will advocate shifting some of that money to the education side or doing away with student fees. In an effort to maintain at least the appearance of competitive balance, all schools should pay the same amount. It is vital for tax reasons that the payouts be labeled (and appear to be) stipends rather than salary or a bonus so the recipients don't get taxed. Louisville could theoretically take its $10,831,630 in savings and distribute it equally among its 335 athletes (down from 563). Handing each athlete $32,333 a year would be problematic, though, as such a large amount would make it difficult for the NCAA to continue to claim nonprofit (and thus tax-exempt) status.
So, what would be the right number? SI polled 10 current D-I athletes, asking how much money would be fair and reasonable. The amount most often mentioned? $1,000 a month. Added to a full scholarship and existing room and board payments, the athletes said that would be more than enough to pay a cellphone bill, afford gas and insurance on a car, and have some left over for incidentals. For those athletes not receiving full tuition and/or room and board, that would go a long way toward covering the remainder.
It is an intriguing amount for a different reason. San Jose State, the least prosperous of the four programs, gained $3,189,884 in revenue. If the athletic department put $452,648 toward its deficit and the rest was divided equally among the 245 remaining athletes, what would each receive? $11,172. Divided over the nine-month school calendar, that comes out to $1,241 per month.
There are schools with football programs even more unprofitable than San Jose State's that may be unable to afford a payout of that size. One risk with any pay-to-play model is that it will trigger another market correction, in which the poorer schools would be forced to drop football or stop fielding Division I teams altogether. The full ramifications of any compensation model are unknown. But if schools have the will to pay their athletes, there is a way.