Should college athletes get paid? - WNEM TV 5

Should college athletes get paid?

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The question is simple. Should college athletes get paid? As the wallet of college sports grows, so will talk of paying its players.

FOX Carolina found that among those familiar with that world, the answer's clearing up. The majority of players, coaches and executives we talked to think it'll happen eventually.

How it will be done - that's where it gets foggy.

Danny Ford knows college football. He was a head coach for 17 years, and led the Clemson Tigers to a national championship.

But Ford was also a tackle in the late 60s at Alabama. And when he played, he got paid by Alabama's athletic department.

"They gave us $15 a month for laundry money, and that went a long way back then," Ford said. "But it wasn't for everybody, it was just for football and basketball."

Ford said the stipends stopped sometime around the early 1970s. And these days, most scholarship players get their room, meals and team apparel provided for them.

But it's no secret many college football and basketball players take money from agents, boosters or fans.

In September, former Alabama tackle DJ Fluker was one of five players who allegedly took money. Fluker is a guy who's reportedly dealt with plenty of hardships such as poverty and homelessness.

And in 2012 he helped lead Alabama to a national title. According to a USA Today report, the school made about $82 million in revenue, and about $45 million in profit that year.

Fluker, just like every player, didn't see a dime.

So if you were in Fluker's shoes, a star at Alabama with a struggling family, would you - or could you - turn down thousands?

Famed Gamecock running back George Rogers won the Heisman Trophy in 1980. Rogers said  he never got paid at the University of South Carolina.

Rogers said kids with academic scholarships can go get a part-time job while students with athletic scholarships train and practice so often between classes, that a job just isn't feasible.

"They should get something," Rogers said. "I mean I don't care how much it is, or what level it is. They got to get something. The school is making a heck of a lot of money off those kids by the jerseys."

There's also revenue from certain school functions, from athletic events to ticket sales.

After years of managing Gamecocks baseball, Ray Tanner is now the director of South Carolina's athletic department. He said now might be the time to give student athletes at least some form of payment.

"Now it's just an opinion, so I don't have all the answers, but I think that we may be at a point in time in athletics where you could do some stipends for athletes," Tanner said.

Tanner adds school officials have been debating the best way to implement stipends at the highest levels.

"It gets talked about, and whether you're in the SEC or the ACC, many programs could support those stipends," Tanner said. "But you got some schools that can't. So there's division that you get to as far as budget's concerned. Which becomes an issue."

The larger schools in the Palmetto State, like South Carolina and Clemson probably could pony up payments. But many smaller schools couldn't.

So Tanner said those that pay would only play each other. Which means many in-state rivalries would end. Something that the former coach doesn't want to see.

"I don't want to get into a situation where we're not playing our in-state schools anymore," Tanner said. "Whether it's Furman or Wofford..."

Ford thinks it's tricky for other reasons. He said the biggest obstacle is Title IX, which requires schools that get federal money to provide women with equal opportunities in sports.

Ford said even though football and basketball bring in the most money for almost every school, you simply can't pay those players more.

"They're athletes. And you got to treat women and men fair, and minor sports and major sports fair," Ford said.

So far the idea of cash for college athletes has had controversy with each compromise. And for now, guys like DJ Fluker will keep making universities millions - while their families pinch pennies.

Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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