Could a minor league system as a supplement to Division 1 athletics be part of the reforms suggested for the NCAA?
It's one possible solution that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany talked about Wednesday.
"If (athletes are) not comfortable on campus and they want to monetize, then let the minor leagues flourish," he said. "Or go to IMG. Train at IMG. Get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don't come here and say you want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000. Go to the (NBA) D-League and get it. Go to the NBA and get it. Go to the NFL and get it. Don't ask us to change what we're doing, because we think there are a lot of good things to preserve."
Delany also asked whether athletes would rather be in the NBA's "D-League in the Dakotas" or experiencing college life, and said if some athletes chose to go pro, "we'd probably be better off."
Why would Delany suggest a minor league system? Well, because much like the statement issued from Division 1 athletic directors on Wednesday, schools aren't rushing to get behind a pay-for-play system. Hell, they're not even walking.
Currently, players need to be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft and a year out of high school to be eligible for the NBA. Thus, colleges have served ultimately as training grounds for players looking to head to those leagues while high school baseball players can choose between the minor leagues and college.
But would universities truly be better off like Delany said? He also said that college athletics would offer something "superior" to a minor league system, namely an education. That's a nice thought, but ultimately just a continuation of the facade that schools have put up for years that athletes, especially those in revenue producing sports, are "student-athletes" and not primarily agents for the university to make millions.
Though you could argue that the Big Ten would be better off. The SEC has dominated the recruiting rankings en route to seven straight national championships. If high ranking recruits had the ability to head straight to a football minor league, the SEC would be the first league weakened. That would open up the Big 10's chances for a first championship since 2002. That Delany, always thinking.
Is a football minor league likely? No, not at all. And if it happened, while some conferences relative strength could be improved, the overall popularity of college football could go down. Which means revenue would go down. Given how much money has driven the recent spate of conference realignment, no, college football would not be better off.