Iowa Hawkeyes

Branding, health care add to "soft dollar" value of athletics scholarship

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Carly Mohns is illuminated by the golden light of a Tigerhawk as she stands on the court as the starters are announced before a 2017 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes forward Carly Mohns is illuminated by the golden light of a Tigerhawk as she stands on the court as the starters are announced before a 2017 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Editor’s note: Jonathan Yates teaches “The Politics of Sports” at the University of Iowa. This is the second in a three-part series. Read part one here

Professional services such as branding, insurance and health care add greatly to the value an athletic scholarship at the University of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.

These “soft dollar” benefits add greatly to the tuition, room and board costs most associate with scholarships.

Tuition, room and board are “hard dollar” expenses that range from about $20,000 to $45,000 for Iowa, Iowa State and UNI undergraduates.

In Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City, the soft dollar bonanza can start, but does not end, at about $100,000 per student-athlete. That is the amount expended by the school that is greater than what it costs for tuition, room and board. The soft dollar benefit can be much, much higher, though. This is somewhat like “goodwill” in accounting, which are assets not readily identifiable.

At Iowa, about $126,000 is spent per player in the current budget.

Much of the differential goes to pay for soft dollar benefits in professional services in branding, insurance and health care that provide athletes with a rich soft dollar package.

Branding, what distinguishes an entity from others, adds greatly to the value of a sports scholarship. These public relation efforts bring media attention to the college athletes they would not receive otherwise. A recent study put the value of the branding received by football players at the University of Wyoming at $46 million a year. Laramie, Wyo., is a minor media market, not even in the top 200. Des Moines-Ames is ranked No. 69, which makes the branding received even more valuable for a college player in Iowa.

Much of this branding is generated by the sports information departments.

There are 12 working in the communications department of the University of Iowa. Six work in communications for Iowa State, five at UNI. These professionals are dedicated to raising the media profile of the student-athletes in the most positive manner possible.

Enhancing the value in branding also comes from players winning awards that are available only for student-athletes and lift their national profile.

Awards such as the Heisman Trophy and various All-American teams come with a great deal of prestige. Iowa State’s Jake Campos received nationwide press for being nominated for the William V. Campbell Trophy this year, also known as the “academic Heisman.” The award goes to the football player who performs the best in school, community service and on the field.

All honors help to brand the winner as an accomplished student-athlete, the type of individual who is highly desired by graduate schools and employers.

Health care is another professional service that is far superior for student-athletes.

Many schools have nutritionists, mental health professionals and others on staff, in addition to team physicians, all focused on players. Athletes at Iowa, for instance, chart their sleep and report to health care professionals at the school. Quality sleep leads to a more rested athlete who not only performs better at sports, but also in the classroom and later in the career.

This is the same for better eating habits.

Superior insurance is another soft dollar benefit for student-athletes. Prominent among the insurance coverage offered is loss-of-value coverage for athletes. This is a policy that pays out if a career is ended in college by injury. The NCAA pays for this policy.

These professional services add to all facets of the college life of a student-athlete.

Branding raises the profile of the player through marketing that would otherwise not be provided. Awards for student-athletes add to the branding efforts. Insurance protects the health and earning potential and various forms of health care lead to a peak performance in school, sports and then the business world.

All of these professional services are significant soft dollar benefits not available to those who do not play sports.

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