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We all know it exists. As long as there are those passionate about college football, have some disposable income, and want to feel like a big shot, you’re going to have student athletes receiving cash on the sly.  It happens at every school, and it’s probably a lot more sophisticated than you may think.

Hundred-dollar handshakes happen; we know this. We just don’t like it when it’s thrown in our face. It’s admitting to cheating, and whether it tarnishes your view of your beloved institution, it’s an opportunity to throw shade at a rival, or you’re simply dreading the NCAA investigation that’s sure to follow, it’s bound to cause an uproar when a player admits to receiving some extra cash.

So when former Texas QB Chris Simms filled in on CBS Sports radio’s Tiki and Tierney yesterday and mentioned receiving cash as if he was talking about the weather, well, it’s going to get some attention.

“They didn’t pay me, but there may have been cash going around to some other players,” said Simms. “I’m not going to deny that. I may have gotten a few $100 handshakes every now and then to sign some autographs for alumni.

“I don’t care how rich your upbringing was. Yes, I grew up with a silver spoon, but if you give me a few extra $100 as a college kid, that’s great.”

That sound you just heard is the collective groan of Longhorn fans everywhere. Yesterday just wasn’t their day.

On one hand, it’s really not a big deal. There’s little harm in a college students getting a hundred dollars here and there. (You know, I said “getting”. I should really say earning, because if we don’t each own a little bit of our own likeness, are we sure this is America?)

On the other hand, it kind of is a big deal. It doesn’t stop with $100 handshakes. Even with the NCAA overlords ready to swoop at any moment, players are being ushered into bare apartments to sign autographs for hours and hours for untold amounts of money. They’re even receiving cars, tattoos, and more. Some of it is well-intentioned, but we have to realize some of it isn’t. Players are getting involved with some pretty shady characters, and while a player may be as they say, ‘getting theirs’, no one is looking out for them once they start navigating the shadows of the college football world. They’re kids, they’re going to make decisions they shouldn’t. Especially if their family is desperate for help. Is it really out of the question that once an athlete slips up said shady character can’t, or won’t, blackmail a player for other gains? Yes, I’m talking worst-case scenario here, but you know what’s worse than the NCAA not allowing a player to make money off their likeness? Someone else having dirt on a player and pressuring them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. It can leave a player with few options, and should they get caught, few places to turn to for help.

Unfortunately, there’s just about no way to police it unless someone either admits it or get’s caught red-handed. Even then it’s difficult to prove. All the NCAA can really do is fall back on their draconian ways and hope to discourage the rest.

There is a solution though. Allow players to earn money from their likeness. Kill two birds with one stone. Schools can ill afford to pay student athletes, and no, pointing to a multimillion dollar facility isn’t proof they can. That’s not how finances work. Schools can’t take money given to the university for a specific purpose and use it however they please.

By allowing students to make money off their likeness, the schools could not only oversee the transactions to help protect the student athlete, but the school could receive a percentage of the earnings that could go into a fund to help pay all student athletes a decent stipend. The school after all, is providing the platform for the player to begin with. By aligning the NCAA’s, the school’s, and the player’s interest, everybody wins.

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