Over the past decade, college athletics have become big business, and that's why we support paying college athletes a stipend to prevent rampant fraud among NCAA schools.
The debate on whether to pay student athletes is nothing new. The NCAA doesn't pay student athletes on the theory that college sports rely on amateurism to function and that athletes are students first.
This argument has its merits, but times have changed and universities benefit greatly from student athletes.
A Big Ten football game between two heated rivals can easily generate more than 90,000 fans and take in a gate of more than $2 million. Add in television revenue, corporate sponsorship and everything that is sold at the stadium, from concessions to jerseys, and you see how sports have become big business.
Full scholarship student athletes are restricted from working, although a full scholarship does guarantee free room and board — a relative bargain for the schools when you consider what the university takes in.
The latest team to run afoul of NCAA rules is Ohio State.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other players were suspended for the first five games of 2011 for infractions.
The players sold memorabilia to a tattoo artist for money and to get inked up. The NCAA said the players had no right to sell the awards, so they issued the suspensions, although the athletes were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl game this month against Arkansas.
The Buckeyes won the game, and the suspended players all played a significant role. Why would the NCAA allow the players to play in the big game and wait until next year to suspend them? The easy answer is money.
Maryland's basketball coach Gary Williams and other coaches said athletes in revenue-producing sports should be paid a stipend. They're right, although we would expand that to include all full-scholarship athletes regardless of sport.
Such a move could help keep players in school longer and decrease the temptation to take money or to turn pro too early.
Will a stipend be enough to entice a star player to come back for a senior season? Probably not, but it may be enough to help keep others in school so they can graduate.
REPRINTED FROM THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL.