This article states something I’ve thought about for the last year or so far more eloquently than I can. Here are the quotes I agree with the most:
Ask yourself this: What would happen if tomorrow every single player on the Auburn football team quit and re-formed as a professional team called the Birmingham Bandits. Who would go to their games? Anyone? How much would those talented young men get paid?
Ask yourself this: What would happen if all the ACC basketball schools dropped their players and replaced them with Division II talent? Would North Carolina-Duke suddenly play in empty arenas?
College football is not popular because of the stars. College football is popular because of that first word. Take away the college part, add in money, and you are left with professional minor league football and a developmental basketball league. See how many people go watch that.