The fact that former Auburn football players are now claiming they received cash payments while attending the school and playing for the Tigers is neither an urgent nor a horrifying news story, simply because it’s just the latest in a long line of reports linking collegiate athletes to dollar bills.

But it once again has fans and analysts asking if NCAA athletes should be paid. columnist Jason Whitlock recently wrote a strong column scolding the NCAA for its flaws.

The system is broken. No one believes in the integrity of the NCAA rule book. Most fair-minded people don’t believe the athletes are getting a fair shake. Many of them are unprepared to be educated in college, and the demands on their time compromise their ability to catch up or keep pace academically.

Smart people need to figure out a way to financially compensate the football and basketball players who generate the cash. Title IX is not a legitimate excuse to maintain the status quo. This is America. The people who produce the profits are supposed to benefit from those profits.

Room, board, books and tuition are no longer remotely a fair exchange when coaches and administrators earn lifetime financial security every one to four years.

I moonlight as a CHL hockey host and have gotten to know a number of major-junior hockey players quite well. These guys are future professional athletes, but instead of getting a discount on post-secondary education they’re playing for money. Not a lot, but enough to make it so that the people producing the profits are benefiting from those profits. I’m having a hard time seeing a way in which making that money has negatively affected these guys.

I’d like to take a semi-outrageous route and liken the world of the NCAA to the world of illegal prostitution or marijuana. Regardless of what we do to run interference, people are going to smoke weed, people are to going to solicit hookers and college athletes are going to receive payments from boosters and/or schools.

In all three cases, legalizing the act makes it easier to regulate the inevitable. What’s so wrong with giving these kids something extra for their services? I realize that the spirit of amateur sports doesn’t call for such a thing, but that ship sailed when college football and basketball became billion-dollar industries.

Sadly, scenarios like these are unfolding all across the United States. Athletes are putting their health and safety on the line in exchange for nothing more than a shot at a fortune. But I guess that’s typical of a country where 400 people have more wealth than half of the population.