The question of whether or not college athletes should be paid is a tricky one without a clear answer. And if the student-athletes are to be compensated past their cost of attendance stipend and paid education, the bigger worry is how to make it happen.
Should third parties be involved? Should the amateurism aspect of college sports be completely eliminated?
Countless options have been floated out there — but one, when posed to Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour, intrigued her: Endorsement deals.
"I do think it's a viable possibility, a viable alternative," Barbour said Wednesday at Penn State's second Coaches Caravan stop in Center City Philadelphia. "But there are all the questions out there that aren't answered."
Barbour — who was recently named among Forbes' most powerful women in sports — asked some of those questions aloud.
"Are we going to restrict who they can or they can't (receive endorsements from)? Are we going to restrict their association with a particular institution?"
The athletic director doesn't have those answers. "It just creates other questions," she added. "It doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do."
When asked the same question, Penn State football coach James Franklin declined to comment on the situation until he studied it further.
"I have a personal opinion on a surface-level understanding," Franklin admitted. "But I'd rather do a deep dive before I answer. ...I don't want to throw out something that I haven't thought through."
As most understand, college athletics is a machine. It's a business. In 2010, the NCAA and CBS/Turner agreed to a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal for right to March Madness. Meanwhile, cost of attendance stipends — a few thousand dollars per student-athlete, depending on the institution — was just recently implemented three years ago.
That discrepancy has caused many — from ESPN's Jay Bilas to Lakers star Lonzo Ball — to call for the end of amateurism. The possibility for endorsement deals, though, could calm those concerns.
"Not unlike cost of attendance, there's an evolution to this," Barbour said. "That might be the next step."
But it might also open a can of worms.
"I certainly can't speak for other ADs, but I think there is some interest in exploring how it might work and answering some of those unanswered questions," Barbour added. "Because the devil's always in the details, right?"