Should college sports players be paid?

Here’s a sports-related question that I’ve never in my life considered until this morning when the guy I was talking to on the train asked me what I thought about the subject. He asked, “Do you think college sports players should be paid to play?”

I don’t know the arguments, pros or cons, in response to this question. I’ve never given it any thought until this morning. Since then (and mostly off the top of my head), here are my initial thoughts:

Why not? My guess is that colleges, especially the competitive sports colleges, take in a lot of money for their athletic programs, so why shouldn’t the players share in the proceeds? Of course, one might consider that they really are being “paid” since most of these men and women get full scholarships to the school for playing. And you can’t really put a price tag on an education, can you?

Perhaps more fundamental is the idealism of sports. Apparently, some think that, at the college level, it should all be about the sportsmanship, and that money should not factor into the equation. I can agree with that, but I also have to ask: are “professional” sports not about sportsmanship? What makes college sports different?

I suppose that some people worry there’s a slippery slope. If you paid college players, why not pay high school players? Where do you draw the line?

It seems that the definition of “professional” when it comes to sports, is the same as when it comes to sex: you are paid for it. Between two athletes of equal skill, one is called “professional” because she is paid, the other is not because she isn’t. And why is “professional” bad? In most other vocations, being professional is a sign of achievement: a professional plumber, electrician, mechanic, pilot, writer. Why the slant against professional “sports” players? And why in college?

I’m sure there are plenty of arguments, pro and con, on this topic. These are my initial thoughts, and I haven’t made up my mind yet. I can easily go either way, and I’m interested in the rational that others have as to why college players should or should not be paid to play their sports.