If those freakishly fast and powerful young men who were colliding on the field of play during last night's college football national championship game looked like professional athletes, it's because for all the world they are -- in every sense but one. The universities pocket the paychecks; the athletes are stiffed.

Sure, they get top-notch educations, if they're willing to seize the opportunity, but these are otherwise students-for-hire. The National Collegiate Athletic Association fools no one with this sham we call major-college football. The product is undeniably compelling, as ratings attest, but given the risks these athletes take in this most violent of sports and the vast sums of money that change hands, shouldn't the compensation be a little more than first dibs on picking classes?