If, as in the “olden” days, college athletes really WERE students who played sports on the side, there would be no need to pay them. But since most of them are RECRUITED by the school AS ATHLETES and made students as an afterthought; since they spend far more than 40 hours a week during (and before) their season doing ATHLETIC work, since only those few who are extremely intelligent (who are, rightly, honored for that achievement) can carry a full academic load with good grades, AND since the continuation of their college education DEPENDS upon remaining healthy enough in spite of the risks of athletic activity, I feel that, at least at those schools, players in “big money” sports OUGHT to be considered school staff (i.e. employees) and be covered by union contracts, which ought to include “scholarship insurance” in case of injury in games or practice, and health insurance (like the VA) for treatment of athletic-related injuries after they leave the team.
There are three schools who currently require ALL of their athletes to carry a full academic load, and to excel in academics, and whose scholarships are extended to ALL students regardless of athletic participation, and which PAY a small salary to their students as well: namely the three US service academies. Their athletes are not usually among the top ranked athletic teams, because their academics AND their HONOR come first, but their fans are proud of them nevertheless.
I believe that the student athletes should be denied the title of “students” and reclassified as employees of a corporation set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the college or university to play football, basketball, baseball or any game which people will pay money to watch.
The schools would get the money from those enterprises and the hypocrisy of hulks masquerading as scholars would go away.