28 Highest Paid College Athletes – 2024

April 15, 2024

highest paid college athletes football basketball player

The highest paid college athletes—Bronny James, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark—are already celebrities in their own right. They’ve captured the attention of the sports world by shattering records at the college level. They’ve amassed huge social media followings. And they’ve become objects of imagination, speculation, and hope as they consider going pro. Scroll down for the highest paid NIL athletes (mostly the highest paid college football and highest paid college basketball players).

But first, what exactly does “highest paid college athletes” mean?  It’s a well-known fact that college athletes aren’t paid—at least not in the sense we typically mean when we speak about employees being paid for their labor. College athletes aren’t paid for their on-the-field performance. Nor are they compensated for the time and effort they put into their off-the-field regimen of training and preparation, a regimen that looks suspiciously like a full-time job. The reason why college athletes aren’t paid has to do with the NCAA’s policy of amateurism, which states that college athletes are “amateurs” and thus not eligible for compensation for their on-the-field play. But when one considers just how much money is in college sports, and that nearly every other aspect of college sports has been monetized—from coaches making millions to media contracts in the billions—the NCAA’s “amateur” rule becomes increasingly absurd.

Highest Paid College Athletes – (Continued)

And while that fundamental principle of amateurism remains enshrined in NCAA policy, California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, passed in 2019, forced the NCAA to revisit its stance on college athletes receiving compensation for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). In 2021, the NCAA implemented an interim policy which allows student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. College athletes can now enter partnerships with brands, sign endorsement deals, sell their autographs and other merchandise, make paid appearances, and so on.

But before we turn to the highest paid college athletes, there are a few things to keep in mind about the NCAA’s new NIL policy. It’s certainly a step towards fairness. In the past, only the schools and the NCAA were profiting from athletes’ NIL. However,  it doesn’t get at the root of the problem. College athletes still aren’t paid for their labor, which, as I’ve already noted, amounts to a full-time job. And it’s easy to marvel at the amount of cash the top earners are bringing in, but keep in mind that in 2022, only 17% of student athletes at Division I schools participated in NIL activities.

Highest Paid College Athletes – (Continued)

What’s more, the average compensation per NIL activity was $1300 and the median compensation was just $65. Sure, that was in 2022, the first year under the NCAA’s new NIL policy, and there’s every reason to believe that those numbers will go up. But the point is clear: only some college athletes will benefit from the NCAA’s NIL policy, and most of the earnings will accrue to an elite group of super-talented, touted, and visible college athletes.

Highest Paid College Athletes

28) Garrett Nussmeier, LSU – $1 million

Kicking off the list of the highest paid college athletes is LSU quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, who has an estimated NIL valuation hovering around $1 million. According to NIL platform On3 Elite, Nussmeier has engaged in NIL partnerships with Cheez-It, EA Sports, and a Louisiana law firm.

27) Blake Corum, Michigan – $1.1 million

Running back Blake Corum is the University of Michigan’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns. In 2023, Corum led the Wolverines to a national title, along the way setting a single-season record of 27 rushing touchdowns. Off the field, Corum was quick to take advantage of the NCAA’s newly implemented NIL policy. Since 2021, he’s struck a number of deals, including partnerships with Bose, Subway, and the National Guard.

26) Shilo Sanders, Colorado – $1.1 million

Shilo Sanders play safety for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, where his dad, hall-of-famer Deion Sanders, is the head coach. Shilo has inked deals with KFC, Gillette, and Porsche, among others. Additionally, back in February, Shilo took to his Instagram to hint at a possible deal with sports behemoth Nike.

Highest Paid NIL College Athletes (Continued)

25) Cooper Flagg, Duke – $1.1 million

Cooper Flagg hasn’t yet played a game at the college level, but he already boasts an estimated NIL value of $1.1 million. The six-foot-nine forward is the top-ranked high school player in the class of 2024, and he’ll soon be suiting up for the Duke Blue Devils.

24) Brady Cook, Missouri – $1.1 million

In 2023, Brady Cook had a breakout season as quarterback for the University of Missouri, leading the Tigers to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Highest Paid College Basketball/Football Player

23) Hansel Emmanuel, Austin Peay – $1.2 million

At six years old, Hansel Emmanuel lost his left arm in an accident. Today, he’s a Division 1 basketball player. He’s entered into NIL deals with major brands such as Oakley, Champs Sports, Adidas, T-Mobile, and Gatorade.

22) Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee – $1.2 million

The Volunteers’ quarterback’s current NIL valuation is estimated to be around $1.2 million, though last year it was reported that he’d signed an NIL deal worth $8 million.

21) Flau’jae Johnson, LSU – $1.2 million

The LSU shooting-guard has inked deals with heavyweight companies like Puma, Meta, and JBL.

20) Jordan Travis, Florida State – $1.2 million

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis had a brilliant final year of his college career. Unfortunately, a serious leg injury sustained against North Alabama. Despite the injury, he’s projected to be a top pick in the 2024 NFL draft.

Highest Paid College Basketball/Football Player

19) Dillon Gabriel, Oregon – $1.3 million

Prior to taking the ball for the Oregon Ducks, Dillon Gabriel played quarterback for the University of Central Florida and the University of Oklahoma.

18) Michael Penix Jr., Washington – $1.3 million

The decorated quarterback has partnered with Amazon and Epic Seats, among others.

17) Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State – $1.4 million

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. already has quite the football resume. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison, is a two-time unanimous All-American, and was the recipient of the 2023 Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the most outstanding receiver in college football. Lastly, Harrison has participated in an ad campaign for Chipotle and signed a deal with Kane Footwear.

Highest Paid College Basketball/Football Player

16) Bo Nix, Oregon – $1.4 million

Quarterback Bo Nix started his college career at Auburn and ended it at Oregon. He holds the record for the highest completion percentage in a single season in college football history. In 2023, he was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. Off the field, he’s done deals with Google Shopping and fast-food chain Raising Cane’s.

15) Jared McCain, Duke – $1.4 million

Jared McCain is just getting his college basketball career started at Duke, but he already ranks among the highest paid college athletes. He’s partnered with Kim Kardashian clothing brand Skims, American Eagle Outfitters, and beauty brand Sally Hansen.

14) Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss – $1.4 million

Quarterback Jaxson Dart started his college football career at USC before transferring to Ole Miss in 2022. In February 2024, he signed an NIL deal with Nicholas Air, in so doing becoming the first college athlete to enter into an NIL partnership with a private airfare company. The deal allows Dart to receive an undisclosed number of flights for “travel, training, and philanthropy.”

Highest Paid College Athletes – (Continued)

13) Evan Stewart, Oregon – $1.4 million

The Oregon wide receiver (formerly a Texas A&M Aggie) has gone into business with luxury fashion brand Coach and EA Sports.

12) Carson Beck, Georgia – $1.5 million

In 2021, Georgia quarterback appeared in the Peach Bowl and the Orange Bowl, and in 2022 and 2023 he led the Bulldogs to back-to-back college football national championships. In December 2023, he announced that he’d be returning for the 2024 season. And although there was speculation that his enormous NIL valuation might have played a role in his decision-making, he stated that money was “never a main factor” in his decision to return to college football for another year. Nevertheless, as one of the highest paid college athletes, he’s signed partnerships with Associated Credit Unit, Zero FG Energy Drink, and the Players’ Lounge.

Highest Paid College Athletes – (Continued)

11) Drake Maye, North Carolina – $1.5 million

The North Carolina quarterback made his biggest NIL splash in 2023, when he partnered with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s energy drink brand, Zoa. At the end of 2023, he declared for the NFL draft.

10) Jalen Milroe, Alabama – $1.6 million

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe has partnered with clothing company Rhoback and headphone brand Beats by Dre.

9) Angel Reese, LSU – $1.8 million

Over the course of her college basketball career, forward Angel Reese was one of the most dominant athletes in the sport. Accordingly, she became one of the highest paid college athletes. In 2023, she signed an endorsement deal with Reebok. She has also engaged in NIL activities with brands like Amazon, Bose, Coach, Discord, Outback Steakhouse, Sonic, TurboTax, Wingstop, and Xfinity. Earlier this month, she declared for the WNBA draft.

8) Quinn Ewers, Texas – $1.9 million

On April 12, 2024, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers signed an NIL deal with private jet company Nicholas Air, becoming just the second college athlete to partner with a private airline. No wonder he’s one of the highest paid college athletes, with an NIL valuation just below $2 million.

Highest Paid College Basketball/Football Player

7) Travis Hunter, Colorado – $2.4 million

Travis Hunter, wide receiver and cornerback for the Colorado Buffaloes, is only in the second year of his college football career. In that time he’s partnered with major brands and companies like Celsius, 7-Eleven, American Eagle Outfitters, and Cheez-It.

6) Caleb Williams, USC – $2.6 million

USC quarterback Caleb Williams is expected to be the number one overall draft pick in the 2024 NFL draft. As an NIL-eligible college player, he partnered with Wendy’s, Beats by Dre, Dr Pepper, United Airlines, PlayStation, AT&T, and many other household-name brands. Although more conservative estimates put his NIL worth around $2.6 million, some outlets reported that the star quarterback made as much as $10 million in NIL endorsements during his time at USC.

Highest Paid College Athletes – (Continued)

5) Arch Manning, Texas – $2.8 million

Arch Manning’s last name should give you a hint as to why he’s one of the highest paid college athletes. He’s football royalty, nephew to legendary pro quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning. In 2023, Arch announced that he’d inked his first licensing deal with Panini America, a sports memorabilia company.

4) Caitlin Clark, Iowa – $3.1 million

This year, Caitlin Clark was the biggest phenomenon not just in college basketball, but across all of college sports. She broke the NCAA basketball all-time scoring record and led Iowa deep into the NCAA tournament. Along with Angel Reese, she’ll headline one of the most high-profile and anticipated WNBA drafts of all time.

Clark signed at least 11 NIL deals during her time as a college player. Combined, those deals—which included partnerships with Gatorade and Nike—amounted to about $3.1 million.

Highest Paid College Basketball/Football Player

3) Livvy Dunne, LSU – $3.7 million

Gymnast Livvy Dunne is one of the highest paid college athletes of all time. Additionally, she’s amassed huge social media followings and has done deals with brands like Nautica, Motorola, Body Armor, Forever 21, Grubhub, Linktree, American Eagle Outfitters, and more. Further, in a 2023 interview, she revealed that she’d made over $500,000 on a single NIL agreement.

2) Bronny James, USC – $4.5 million

The son of one of the greatest talents basketball has ever seen, Bronny James is still trying to cement his own legacy on the court. Five months after suffering a heart attack, James made his college basketball debut for USC in December 2023. In April 2024, he announced for the 2024 NBA draft.

Lastly, as an NIL-eligible player, he inked deals with Google, Beats by Dre, Nike, and more.

1) Shedeur Sanders, Colorado – $4.7 million

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders plays for his dad, Deion Sanders, at the University of Colorado. According to On3, his NIL value currently sits around $4.7 million. That’s thanks to deals with brands like Topps, Urban Outfitters, Beats by Dre, Under Armour, Gatorade, and Mercedes-Benz.

Highest Paid College Athletes – Additional Resources 

In conclusion, we invite you to check out some of our other blogs on college athletics: