It has been a long-standing thing that colleges are not allowed to "buy" players by way of monetary compensation to entice them to attend a particular university. Of course the booster clubs are able to circumvent this in some capacity - and are caught stretching the limits pretty regularly. Gifts, vacations, cars, trust fund, offshore accounts are all things that universities have been busted awarding to star high school athletes in exchange for their attendance. The university sports programs in turn make millions of dollars from home games and in using the likeness of particular stars throughout the school year.
Some would argue that the presence of these teams actually increases the college's ability to attract paying students and this also enables a greater control over supply and demand and subsequently, the amount they can charge for tuition.
It would be folly to suggest that student athlete university presence has much in the way of education in mind - at least for the top stars they are in many cases given a free pass. From my own college experience I recall being in one particular class where one of the stars of the football team was also in the class with me.
He was very rarely in class, he almost never participated in any presentations, he even missed some of the major exams - yet he still passed the class. We all know what is going on here.
Another person that I knew who ended up getting drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, would years later tell me about the luxury transport he was provided with, how he had an apartment off campus that was completely off the books and he also maintained a dorm room on campus that he never stayed in. On two separate occasions he was arrested for being drunk underage and the charges simply went away.
But the thing was, most of these things are never reported and the top players continue to get away with it at the top school.
I know it is a work of fiction, but the film Blue Chips is an excellent representation of how a school can turn their sports program around by offering basically bribes to top student athletes and in turn increase the coach's and staff's salaries, as well as make a ton of money for the school.
In the past the NCAA was the only enforcement body that was meant to keep these sorts of "under the table" offerings from happening... however, that is all about to change.
the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NCAA is no longer allowed to restrict the amount of "education related benefits" that an athlete can receive. So what does "education related benefits" mean? I am sure you can understand that this could amount to all manner of things including cars, property, and possibly even cash. It is really easy to make the case that an athlete needs to have some form of transportation to visit his family on weekends. How about use of private planes? What about "walking around money?" There are tons of ways that this can be abused as I am sure you can imagine.
I have mixed feelings about this personally: The top athletes should have the opportunity to make the most of their athletic prowess but this in turn creates a situation where the richest schools with the biggest booster programs are going to maintain a strangle-hold on top talent. Now they won't really even need to be covert about it and can come straight out and offer financial incentives beyond a free (and very easy) education at their school.
One good side effect of all this is that college-sports oriented video games are now going to be able to make NCAA games, which in my opinion were always better than the pro games anyway. The thing that was getting in the way is that the players could NOT be compensated for using their likeness... up to now.
This will also make a real problem for title IX, which is the ruling that states that a college can not show favoritism towards male players in terms of scholarship offerings. This will almost certainly become a hot topic issue as women's college sports don't create anywhere near the earnings opportunities for the university, neither do minor sports such as soccer.
I suspect that has opened the doors for a tremendous amount of abuse and we will see precisely that happen in the coming years. Get ready for the basketball and football programs that are good now to remain that way and for the mid-table ones to struggle to remain relevant.