With the NCAA backed into a corner, the age of paying college athletes is officially upon us

College athletics, beyond just the NCAA, has been backed into a corner surrounded by barbed wire. There are few paths out. At this point, seemingly no amount of litigation or committees or legislation can deny what is inevitably coming down the tracks like a runaway train.

In some way, shape or form, athletes in the revenue-producing sports will have to be paid. Not just name, image and likeness rights or cost of attendance money, we’re talking some sort of partnership with the schools for which they put their bodies on the line.

Short of Congressional intervention — a Hail Mary at this point — that’s the only tenet remaining from a collegiate model that has melted away over the years like a Life Saver left out in the rain.

For many, there is little left of the innocence that drew a certain generation to the games in the first place. What has been positioned as a decisive moment this week at the NCAA Convention really serves only as background music.

What matters more are the parallel tracks carrying NIL, the transfer portal, player empowerment, a multibillion-dollar entertainment/athletic complex and a yawning lack of leadership at the top.

No rewriting of the NCAA Constitution is going to change that narrative in the short term. College athletics has not only lost a large part of whatever legal leverage it might hold to stave off pay-for-play, it has lost its way entirely.

“I do think we’re probably 2-3 years away from having a different relationship with our student-athletes,” said respected North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham, who is entering his 27th year in athletic administration. “It won’t necessarily be the student and the university. It may be employee-employer.”

That means a fundamental shift in how…

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