NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- This Johnny Manziel thing is getting beyond ridiculous. Seriously, I've had it up to here with it. I'll admit, I used to think that college athletes shouldn't whine and complain all that much. They have it made: College football limelight, national superstars, free tuition and living. But sometimes, it's not all what it's cracked up to be.After I read this piece about Johnny Manziel and his family, my thoughts changed considerably. I highly suggest reading it if you have not yet. As my father said after reading it, "the media is going to kill this kid and his family." I know, I know. He wanted the fame. He wanted all the Twitter followers and attention. Until it got to the way it is today. Now there are claims that Manziel signed memorabilia for a broker and in exchange, received a couple thousand dollars. Is this a rumor turned NCAA investigation, or is it legitimate? We don't know yet, but we know it won't go away anytime soon. Before I argue the fact that he should be able to do this, why on Earth would he? If you read the article above, Johnny's father, Paul Manziel, comes right out and says his family is very well off due to the family oil trust. Johnny drives a new Mercedes-Benz because his father was worried that he may obtain it in an illegal manner if the family didn't buy him one. He sits court side at NBA games and hangs out with celebrities. It makes no sense that he would risk his entire collegiate, and therefore, professional career for a lousy couple of grand, especially when he has legal access to it from his family. Everyone makes money on these athletes, except for them of course. Before getting blasted, I do understand both sides, sort of. I get that tuition, room and board, tutoring and all that jazz is expensive. But it's not like the schools are losing money because of it. Why? Because they make millions -- in some cases, in excess of $100 million per year from football alone, such as the University of Texas -- which will pay for athletes' tuition and tutoring for the next 1,000 years. In fact, the top 15 schools combined for a total of $1 billion in revenue in 2010 and the NCAA's pull exceeded $870 million dollars for the 2011-2012 season.
The TV networks like Disney's ( DIS) ESPN or CBS ( CBS) make millions (and also pay millions for the rights to broadcast), the merchandisers make millions, the video game producers make millions. But how much do the athletes make? Yeah, zero. I'm not saying college athletes should get millions of dollars for playing or that college football should be like the pros. But c'mon, selling autographs? Manziel signs his name on a picture or mini football and he's not entitled to any income for doing so. Why is that? I just don't see the harm. It seems like the NCAA has entitled itself and everyone else to make money on these players, except for the players themselves. Hell, even Manziel's coach got a sizable raise to the tune of one million bucks, bringing his annual salary to $3.1 million per year. In good faith, I can see why the rules were established. Athletes are supposed to play for pride and honor. But this isn't the 1950's or 1960's. Universities aren't playing for bragging rights anymore. They're playing for money -- and have been for a while -- and that's not going to stop anytime soon. Degrees used to mean something then too. Sure, some still do, but now they herd most of these players in, stick them with whatever degree and course schedule is easiest, and make sure the player will remain eligible. It's time that the wealth is shared. How you do it without giving certain schools or conferences a competitive advantage, I'm not sure. It would have to be evenly split across the board. Or I mean, just let the players sell their own autographs. A few weeks ago, Robert Weinstein made a comparison to pimps and prostitutes, in regards to the NCAA and its athletes. The guy was spot on. I don't think it should be a special case for Manziel either. But regardless of how the situation turns out, it should be the pivotal point in a push for some rule changes. The players deserve some type of compensation. Not all kids come from a family like Manziel. If one of these star players comes from the ghetto or a poor community, the free books and classes don't help him or his family all that much. At least not immediately. If he can sign a few jerseys or pictures and make a couple thousand dollars, why wouldn't he?
After all, he's doing the running. He's making the plays and well, he's making money off of himself. It just seems ludicrous that literally everyone can make money off of these players and they can't make a nickel in return for their efforts. I think that's what bugs me the most. In a business where billions of dollars flow around annually, you'd think the players could get a piece of the pie, however small it may be. Or at least sign a picture of themselves. Change is good, and it's time for a change. -- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich. . At the time of publication the author is long DIS. Follow @BretKenwell This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.