I have an opportunity this fall to watch many outstanding high school football players display their talents.

In the Blue Springs-Lee’s Summit West game earlier this season I counted more than a dozen athletes who will play at the NCAA Division I level.

Although these are very talented athletes, the key to their success is a whole lot of time and hard work. The payment of NCAA Division I football and basketball players is a hot topic debated on a variety of different levels.

My first thought was that a Division I scholarship was sufficient payment in a top collegiate program. The return on investment should be successful professions following college graduation. However, in light of the fact that the NCAA and member institutions are the ones that rake in all the dough, perhaps the athletes should share in that revenue.

College sports have become as big a business as professional sports. College football and basketball coaches are making $5 million plus a year. Universities like the University of Texas and the University of Alabama are making as much as $150 million annually. The source of revenue is from TV, clothing sales and every imaginable fund-raising idea known to man.

The NCAA and its schools are making out like a fat cat with events like basketball’s NCAA Tournament, baseball’s College World Series and football’s Bowl Championship Series. So it boils down to a financial coup for the institutions as a result of the effort of the athletes.

The head honchos are not willing to discuss their fortunes but instead hang their hats on the fact the Division I athletes are rewarded adequately through the scholarships they receive. I have had a change of heart – I now believe that current college athletes should receive compensation for their role in making college sports a financial success.

The players make the sports – not the coaches and administrators. College coaches are treated like royalty while the athletes do all the work. I have no idea what would be fair compensation for college athletes.

These athletes work all year long in the weight room and on the practice field. Many of them don’t stay in school long enough to receive their degree. They tend to move on to the professional level in pursuit of the dream.

A sad fact about that is only about 2 percent of them last two or more years at the professional level. Yet when they leave to try and make it at the professional level or graduate from college, they have already earned millions of dollars for the institution that they have played for.

These young people are often exploited for their athletic abilities and then tossed to the side to fend for themselves if they fail to make it in the pros. If they do not receive a degree, they really provided their services for very little personal gain.

The college athletes choose their own road to a school, but they should have the right to earn proper compensation for their efforts. A very small number really make it big. A stipend system could be adapted in relationship to the money that the athletic program takes in for that sport. It seems fair and equitable.

How can they be labeled amateurs when they perform in front of huge crowds and on television every weekend? They are really just uncompensated big-money producers.

They are beginning to catch on to that. The lawsuit that was settled over the use of their images in video games is a clear example of how their eyes have been opened. It will be interesting to see with time if the players who make college sports so popular will eventually arrive at some sort of financial reward for all of their effort.

• It looks as if the Royals realized their need for a dominant No. 2 starter – even if they need to go a little higher on the salary side to make it work. The problems may be found in the number of years the No. 2 guy wants in his contract.

• Someone told me they do not think Andy Reid has shown all his offense in the first nine games of the year. I scratched my head on that one, but the Chiefs better come out with all guns blazing in order to handle the Broncos and Mr. Peyton Manning.

• The media is trying to make a big deal out of Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel playing two quarterbacks in the win over Kentucky. I believe the Tigers are in a great position with this bye week. Maybe the media should let coaches coach – rare today.

• The Suburban Conference’s big-school division in football next year could be very salty. How about Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit West, Lee’s Summit North and Raymore-Peculiar? Now that is some tall cotton if it comes to fruition.

• My quote of the week comes from Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States: “All through your life, you’ll be faced with making a decision between two things. Choose the one that is right. If they are both right, then choose the one that will make you feel the best about it at the end of the day.“

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net