Value of football scholarship is immense

UNIVERSITY PARK – A high school diploma alone will earn a worker $33,852 on average in this country, based on 2013 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Earn a bachelor’s degree, and the figure jumps all the way up to $57,616.

Get a master’s degree, and the number is $69,108, more than double what a high school-only graduate will earn.

Remember those second and third figures the next time you hear of a college football player complaining he’s not getting enough value for his free ride, er, scholarship.

Penn State coach James Franklin talked Thursday about how his goal is to have his players graduate in only 3 years. He talks to them about it early on in the recruiting process and makes it a major point of emphasis once players arrive on campus.

Graduating in 3 years should be easily doable, too, since football players are on campus every summer and can knock out a good number of credits during those sessions.

Now, keep in mind that many players actually use up five years of eligibility, if they redshirt, of course.

It doesn’t take John Urschel to do the important math at play here.

If a football player is so inclined – and there’s no reason for these young men not to be so – then he can earn his undergrad degree in 3 years and still have an additional year and a half to work toward and maybe even complete a master’s degree.

All for free.

So when it’s time to pay the mortgage later in life, football players don’t have to do what almost everyone else does, which is scrape and claw paycheck to paycheck because student loans eat up so much of the finances.

I get so sick of hearing from college football players who claim they need more of this, more of that, a monthly stipend and so on as extra payment for their playing services.

“The sport makes tens of millions of dollars off us,” they claim, “and we want our piece of the pie.”

Hey, you’re getting it. It’s called a free education and a degree that will benefit you tremendously for the rest of your life.

Furthermore, if the players are motivated enough to graduate in 3 years, as Franklin prefers, then anyone who’s on scholarship for the full five years has only himself to blame if he doesn’t cash in by earning either a second undergrad degree or a master’s during his playing career.

Failure to do so is the equivalent of walking away from potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in earning power over the course of a lifetime.

“It’s not just enough to get your degree from Penn State,” Franklin said. “That’s a foregone conclusion. You’re going to graduate from Penn State. Not only that, but our guys are going to be able to work on second degrees and master’s degrees and things like that. That’s something we talk about from day one.”

When a young man does that, the coach noted, “Now he’s differentiated himself from other student-athletes and other students in general.”

Franklin said a primary objective for a player earning a degree in 3 years is to make sure he finishes school in case he has an opportunity to go on to a pro career. A player who still needs credits during the spring semester after his playing career often has to quit school so he can prepare for the NFL draft, thereby coming up short for a degree.

Those players usually intend to return to school later on in life to finish their degree, but that doesn’t always happen.

The value of a five-year Penn State football scholarship for an out-of-state student is $231,000, according to research done by PSU professor Mike Poorman, who covers the Nittany Lions for

A very small percentage of the players will actually go on to the pros. Given the odds, all of them would be smart to get the absolute most out of their free education.

Whether they realize it now or not, it’s the greatest value they’ll ever get in life.

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.