The nation's obsession with college sports means big bucks for schools via TV deals and donations from wealthy boosters.
The added revenue might even justify the inordinate amount of resources and attention given to college athletics, if it weren't for one thing -- the millions of dollars flowing in go to perpetuate the sports programs, not to benefit the schools.
Ironically, the one who is likely to benefit least is the student athlete.
Over the years, example after example has shown college athletes whose athletic success took precedence over academic achievement.
In some cases, academics have been ignored altogether in pursuit of championship trophies. Efforts to change the dynamic have sometimes helped and other times resulted in little more than lip service.
Now, as colleges and universities set records for income from athletic programs, a panel of well-respected former college administrators and athletes says the time for meaningful change has come.
The Knight Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics recently recommended that athletic departments share the revenue with other programs -- namely academics.
This is the same committee whose "Call to Action" recommendations nearly 20 years ago resulted in stricter academic requirements for college athletes by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
A new call is needed to restore priorities at the nation's colleges. Coaches make more than college presidents, athletic program coffers swell while states make universities slash their budgets.
Enrollments are capped and barriers are created to make it a challenge for qualified students to be admitted to college. But for star athletes, it seems that more often than not, there is a way to enroll and stay in school, regardless of academic performance.
The Knight Commission is right on the money when it says funds generated by athletic departments should be shared across the board.
Maybe it ought to be through a percentage system enforced by the NCAA, mandating a cut of the income for academic programs. After all, athletes are supposed to be students first, even though that part of the equation is often secondary.
We've long thought that athletics and academics are out of balance at many colleges and universities. The goal should be to produce academic achievers who can make something of themselves and contribute to society. If they happen to be great athletes, all the better. It shouldn't be the other way around.
The majority of college athletes don't make it to the professional leagues, and many who do only last a few short years. Sad stories abound of young athletes gone astray when the dream of sports superstardom did not materialize.
With a stronger academic background, maybe some of that disappointment and despair can be tempered with success in other fields, instead of on the fields.
We hope the NCAA pays attention to the Knight panel's report. It's not out of the question; previous reports have made a difference.
It's a critical time for the financial health of many of our colleges and universities, and athletic programs should help bear the burden of the overall success of the institution.