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NCAA to debate paying college athletes a stipend

A photo from the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship on March 18, 2012 in Greensboro, N.C.

As the NCAA annual convention opens in San Diego, one issue being discussed is a proposal to allow schools to pay student athletes. Several college football players wore patches in recent bowl games, with the letters APU on them, All Players United.

They believe athletes deserve a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits generated by their performance. NCAA president Mark Emmert supports a system that would allow schools to pay athletes modest stipends.

There are two questions at the heart of this issue.

One is: can schools afford to pay players? Second: should they pay players?

"If we are considering it from a purely economic point of view, of course, if they create value they should be compensated, as we do in any business," says Lake Forest College economics professor Robert Baade. He says there's no question that teams can afford to pay players.

Profits from TV contracts, bowl games and endorsements generate tens of millions of dollars for college football programs.

If the NCAA decides to allow schools to pay players, that money will have to come out of someone's pocket. One likely target is the coaches.

"Not all, but close to all the states in the United States, the highest paid public official is the football coach at the flagship state university," says sports economist Allen Sanderson, at the University of Chicago.

In the current system, coaches play a crucial role in luring players to teams. Sanderson says that role would be diminished if teams could use money to lure athletes.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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