Gophers get to know pay-for-play debate

CHICAGO -- Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood was browsing the Web about the developments in the Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA when two names caught his eye.

They belonged to his Gophers teammates Moses Alipate and Victor Keise.

"I was on the Internet and their names popped up and I was like, 'What?'" Kirkwood said Thursday at Big Ten media days. "We support them all the way with it, as long as it doesn't interfere with the team and bring negative attention. As long as they show up to workouts every day and do their part, I think it's all right."

Alipate and Keise are among six current FBS players who joined the O'Bannon lawsuit, which alleges that the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by using players' names, likenesses and images without compensation. Both Minnesota players are fifth-year seniors who haven't played much at the college level.

Kirkwood hasn't discussed the case with Alipate and Keise other than to ask one question.

"If y'all win, how much do we get?" he said with a laugh.

Like many college players, Kirkwood played the "NCAA" video game from EA Sports, which has contained his likeness in recent years. He doesn't feel as strongly as Alipate and Keise about the pay-for-play debate but would like to see the value of his athletic scholarship go a little further, a proposal the Big Ten has backed for several years.

"When I signed my letter of intent, I knew I wasn't going to be getting paid, so it never really crossed my mind," Kirkwood said. "I started finding out about the revenue when I got to college. It'd be nice to have a little extra money in your pocket when times get rough at the end of the month, but I know we're not NFL players and we shouldn't get millions of dollars in college."

A stipend could help players with basic living expenses, Kirkwood said, as well as help their families travel to far-away games. But the Gophers junior opposes a full-blown pay-for-play system in college football featuring agents and contracts.

"That would be too much," he said. "That might mess up the whole entire recruiting process. If they choose to do that, everybody should get the same amount across the country."