Ten years ago, I hated and vilified anyone who suggested college athletes should be paid. Whatever argument or feeling you have against paying that immediately springs to your mind were the same arguments that were in my mind. "You're ruining the game..."
A lot changes in ten years. As my series last year on the NCAA illustrates, there is not a lot of empirical evidence that the NCAA's structure is welfare-enhancing for universities or society.
Just paying athletes like you would other value-adding university employees makes perfect sense. I will argue that it's more ethical and would lead to more efficient use of resources. There have been several articles this past week (for example) that further flesh out this issue. All of the problems and allegations would be solved by just paying the players what they're worth. Suspending athletes for selling their jerseys, prizes, etc. -- their private property-- is ridiculous and unethical (the athletics departments make millions off their jerseys and identities).
Paying players a salary would lead to:
1. A more transparent price mechanism. Boosters and fans could more accurately see where their money was going.
2. A more efficient market featuring more competition and people responding to incentives.
3. Better resource allocation. There would be much more transparency about revenue and costs as AD's competed for donor cash. There would be much more creativity in how the money would be used.
4. More freedom for the athletes to live like free human beings than like cattle with no rights.
5. Less paranoia among coaches, fans, etc. The current world where it's assumed everyone cheats doesn't make anyone very happy.
I doubt I will watch or care much about March Madness about this year.