Although the idea of paying college athletes is not groundbreaking, it's one that's beginning to pick up steam. Time magazine decided to delve deeper into the issue and used Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for the week's cover.
Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has become a polarizing figure after an offseason of controversy. An NCAA investigation into whether he was paid for signing autographs, as reported by Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar of ESPN, grabbed headlines.
It also brought the issue of a college athlete's limited rights into the spotlight. The Time cover story by Sean Gregory includes input from current and former college players as well as experts about the increasingly debated topic of paying those who play.
Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who won the NFL MVP award last season and played college football at Oklahoma, called the current rules "crazy."
That's crazy to me that it's not allowed. Actors, actresses—these people can sign things and get paid for it. How come this kid can't? How come a kid that's at a high level, that's going to be offered a big amount of money, can't sit down and be like, "Damn, this is my decision?"
As the report states, schools and conferences are able to generate major revenue from athletics, but those who provide the entertainment on the field don't reap the full reward. It's the basis for an argument in favor of paying the players.
Manziel eventually received a half-game suspension for violating an NCAA bylaw, but Texas A&M and the NCAA stated there was no evidence directly showing the quarterback received payment for autographs, George Schroeder of USA Today reported.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies' season-opening game against Rice on Saturday for an "inadvertent violation" of NCAA rules regarding autograph signing, a school official confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
A&M senior associate athletic director Jason Cook told USA TODAY Sports both the school and the NCAA found "there is no evidence Manziel received monetary reward in exchange for autographs."
There are two vastly different factors in play. Should Manziel have received a harsher penalty for his alleged actions, and should such actions even be a major violation under NCAA rules? It's all part of the debate that rages on.
While Manziel got off with a minor penalty for an "inadvertent violation," the entire process caused his image to take a hit. It's something NFL teams are monitoring closely as the sensational sophomore tries to back up his Heisman victory with another strong season.
The fact that Time magazine felt the debate over paying college athletes was important enough to run a cover story about it, shows the issue is no longer just within the sports realm. It's gone mainstream, which will probably only intensify the debate.
Manziel has, rightly or wrongly, become the poster boy for the argument. So it's not a surprise Time chose to use him for the cover. He now represents an entire legion of college athletes, including Georgia offensive lineman Chris Burnette. Burnette understands the jump to the NFL isn't easy, and he's hyper aware of the possibility of injury.
The NFL is not promised at all. For so many college athletes, at no other time in our lives will we be as valuable. To be able to capitalize on that would be great.
Whether Burnette or the next wave of college stars will get that opportunity remains very much up in the air. But the calls for players to get paid are growing louder, as the Time cover story shows.