Last weekend, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter was one of many NCAA football players who sported "APU" on their wristbands during games. The letters stand for "All Players United," a movement campaigning for financial compensation for college athletes.
Their actions were sparked by a class action lawsuit filed against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Although the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving payment for playing, the players' uniform numbers, likenesses and images are used on merchandise such as video games and jerseys. The lawsuit seeks to give players a cut of those profits.
The underlying question, one that has been hanging over the industry forever, is whether college athletes should be paid.
College sports is a billion-dollar industry. Endowments, donations, grants, ticket sales, merchandise sales, advertising, sponsorships and naming rights on athletic facilities are where it begins.
But the biggest chunk of change comes from the broadcast contracts.
While the top brass of the universities and conferences like to take the credit for the success of college sports, we all know it can't happen if the players don't show up. Sure, there may be a bunch of people in suits handling the paperwork, but the blood and sweat of the athletes is why people buy tickets and turn on their TVs.
The athletes drive the revenue, ratings and Internet traffic. Combined with the commitment and effort required from the players, there is every reason they should receive compensation.
I'm not saying give them million-dollar contracts and endorsement deals. But if the players maintain a suitable GPA, attend their classes, pass their classes, attend every practice, game and workout, volunteer and do everything their coaches ask, a monthly stipend is more than fair. With all the money being generated from games, the schools can afford to spread the wealth.
If players were to receive a little cash for their hard work, it might cut down on some of the transgressions—recruiting violations, under-the-table money from crooked boosters—that plague college sports.
It may not solve everything, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Gabe Salgado is a RedEye special contributor.
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