HOUSTON - It's a debate that's been raging for year: should college athletes be paid or should they play just for the love of the game?
The latest incident fueling the conversation is the NCAA's investigation into Texas A&M University quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
The consensus nationally is that it's time for the NCAA to recognize the value student athletes tied to the nation's top programs are bringing to their universities.
In the booming world of college athletics, there's no stage bigger than that of college football. The talent is top notch, and for many of the nation's star players, it's a direct path to the NFL.
And then there are the boisterous crowds. It's all a part of a product that produces hundreds of millions of dollars annually, so is it time that the athletes themselves get a piece of profits?
Plex Performance owner and respected national trainer Danny Arnold says yes.
"You have to create a stipend – some type of a monthly based pay," said Arnold. "If you say it can't happen, well it's already happening in the Olympics."
The latest accusations against Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel involving alleged payment for autographs has reignited this debate.
"When you become a Heisman winner, the spotlight becomes more of a focused spotlight," said Charlie Ward, the 1993 Heisman trophy winner.
Ward lives in Houston and is the head coach at Westbury Christian School.
"You're an athlete getting an education and working out most of the time," said Ward.
Ward believes the time has come to make bold changes in the way the NCAA perceives student athletes.
"For guys that they market, like a Manziel or someone, those guys should get a stipend or a trust, so when they graduate, it's going to be there for them," Ward said.
According to an NCAA study in 2011, playing football at a top tier program required on average, 43.3 hours per week as part of their athletic time commitment, which is parallel to what many would consider a full-time job.
Clark Haptonstall, who chairs the sports management department at Rice University, believes the transition should begin soon.
"When you see the five big conferences pull away from the NCAA, then get ready because you'll see athletes get stipends at that point," said Haptonstall.
Add in the big bucks that go with conference realignment and there's no question that the dollar figures will only keep climbing.
Many hope the trickle-down effect will at some point reach the college athletes, but not before we see new legislation and expected lawsuits.
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