When I lived in Oklahoma in the 70’s and early 80’s, a University of Oklahoma football game was about the closest thing you get to an outdoor religious service without going to Bible camp.
Tickets for games were considered legal tender for all manner of favors and services rendered. Corporations handed them out as perks. Back then, at least, OU was best known for its football program. In fact, one of its presidents is reputed to have said, “My job is to build a university of which the football team can be proud.”
Like any priesthood, the players were treated with kid gloves and got special handling. There were tutors provided to help them pass their academic courses, the training table served all the best and most nutritious foods, and then there were the rumors, spread with a knowing wink.
Stories about boosters who might own a car dealership or a clothing store, for example. There was always a summer job available for members of the team, and wealthy friends were steered to these part-time salesmen to help fatten their retail numbers. Wads of cash might get stuffed in pockets during the test drive. It was just a way of, you know, helping out and showing one’s appreciation. Leastways, that’s the kind of story folks used to bandy about.
I figure that since big football factory college teams are really training camps for the NFL, the NCAA ought to just drop the fig leaf and allow them to be paid. Maybe not as much as the pros, but an amount hefty enough to compensate them properly for putting themselves at physical risk every Saturday for the entertainment of others. After all, were they to sustain a career-ending injury before they graduated, they’d miss out on the whole gravy train. Some schools even yank scholarships from players who can no longer produce.
At least, it would remove the subterfuge.