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ACC Syracuse Duke Basketball

Syracuse's Jalen Carey and Duke's Zion Williamson battle for a loose ball during the first half in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal in Charlotte, N.C. March 14.

This isn't exactly breaking news, but the NCAA needs to make changes in order to compensate college athletes.

For decades, the NCAA has made billions of dollars off the labor of its athletes. It's time for that to change. The NCAA announced earlier this week that a group will be looking how a college athlete can "be compensated for their names, images and likenesses," according to an Associated Press story.

It's good to see the NCAA finally recognize that college athletes should be compensated in some form.

The debate over paying college athletes usually boils down to whether a scholarship, which includes, tuition, room and board, is fair compensation for the hours of practice, travel and games that they put in.

Spoiler: it isn't.

I've covered Division III athletics where the athletes don't receive scholarships and I've covered Syracuse men's basketball, where this issue is centered. All college athletes, no matter what level they play at, work hard at their sport (as well as their work on their degree, you would think).

It appears the NCAA has no plans to directly compensate college athletes which would open up a huge discussion of how much a player is worth. Should a Division III football player be paid the same amount as one in Division I? Or what a Division I women's tennis player vs. a Division I men's basketball player?

Or does a player at one of the big Division I conferences like the ACC (which Syracuse is a member) deserve more than one in the America East (of which upstate SUNY schools Albany and Binghamton belong to)?

So it appears the NCAA will instead look at compensating players for who they are, not where they play or what sport they play at what level.

That may be the best and fairest way to solve this conundrum. If a Syracuse men's or women's basketball player becomes such a big name that the university wants to sell jerseys with their name and number, that player should get paid for it.

If they want to sign autographs and receive an appearance fee, absolutely. If the NCAA wants to sign a deal with a software maker for a video game that uses current players' names, they should be paid.

Playing college athletics shouldn't mean a player should be prohibited from capitalizing off their abilities, talent and work. That's just common sense.

If a Division III football player in a small town becomes popular and wants to make some money by sign autographs, let them do it.

Of course, the NCAA needs to put in guidelines on how much players can be compensated, or the rules could be abused.

But if it's a fair amount, maybe the NCAA might actually benefit in the long run. A top men's basketball player may actually stay four years instead of bolting to the NBA after a season or two. Just think how much better the NCAA tournament could be when teams from the top conferences actually have the best players for more than a year or two?

For decades we've seen players paid under the table and other illegal benefits mar college sports. Now, finally, the NCAA may actually to let its top players get some kind of fair compensation and possibly get rid of some of the corruption in college sports.

That would be welcome news.

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Sciria, The Citizen's assistant news editor, can be reached at chris.sciria@lee.net or on Twitter @csciria

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