I coach a non-revenue sport at a well recognized D1A school and can tell you that the money made from football doesn't just go to fill the pockets of coaches. Certainly, coaches get pretty good salaries, but a large portion of the money goes to support non-revenue sports as well as summer school (tuition, room, board, books) for football players, operations, team travel, and many other areas. There are a few D1A schools that make the kind of money that would allow them to pay players. College football is "big business", but not solely based on media rights but also booster donations and apparel sales each year. The booster at schools like the OSU donate over 60 million a year. Additionally, you can go research how much money is made on apparel from the top Football programs in the country. Since State schools have guidelines/rules on which pot of money can be spent on items like stadium upgrades, new facilities, lockerrooms and other things, most schools put the money back into the athletics program to improve the welfare of student-athletes while donor/booster dollars are used for the big ticket items.
We currently have two major renovations that will take place on our campus and the funds are being donated for the projects to be completed. In a down economy with less money coming from the state, universities have been forced to rely more and more each year on raising funds to survive and maintain an athletics program. Just look at the number of Universites that sponsor all 36 NCAA sports or more than 20 sports.
College athletics is a significant part of the college experience and a great way to bring communities together. In my opinion, paying student-athletes is not the answer. Student-athletes, just like the general population, can take out loans or work a job in the off-season to INVEST in their own education and personal life. Athletic scholarships provide the opportunity to learn, earn a degree, and play in a sport of their interest which each prospect understands before they ever sign a NLI.