Is it finally time to start paying college athletes?

Lauren Williams's picture
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has already led Texas A&M to two blowout victories this year. Yet the biggest story of the young college football season is not Manziel's bid to become only the second player to ever repeat as Heisman champ, but rather whether he should have been allowed to make a few thousands bucks for signing his name on a bunch of tchotkes.

Yes, with the return of college football has come the perennial argument over whether student athletes should be paid. On the one side, some say college players are already compensated plenty in scholarships and on-campus perks. On the other, critics of the enormous money machine that is the NCAA say it's laughable that "everyone in the business of college sports gets rich except the players," as the New York Times' Joe Nocera puts it.

Manziel got the conversation going again this year when it was revealed he was under investigation for allegedly accepting cash payments in exchange for signing memorabilia (he was later found more or less innocent, and slapped with a strange half-game suspension). That struck many as an odd double-standard, given how handsomely Texas A&M and the NCAA have profited off Manziel's prowess on the field.

Texas A&M's athletic department earned $120 million in 2012, sixth-most of any school in the nation. One study estimated the college received $37 million in free media exposure over a three-month period because of Manziel and the football team's success. And boosters even auctioned off a dinner with Manziel for $20,000, though none of the money went to the quarterback himself.

Read more