Heisman winner unaware if others got cash

Bo doesn't know.

That was Bo Jackson's response when asked if he was aware of players ever getting paid at his alma mater.

The only question the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner could answer was whether he ever received money for playing at the university.

"People ask me, Bo, did Auburn ever pay you to play?" Jackson told ESPN.com on Friday. "And I say no, they didn't, since they didn't. But if they did pay me, do you think I'd be stupid enough to tell you?"

Earlier this week, the Opelika-Auburn News reported that ABC college football analyst Terry Bowden, who served as Auburn's head coach from 1993 to 1998, had previously said that, when he arrived on campus, he discovered that Auburn had a system in place whereby its football players could get paid. Although Bowden has declined comment, three Auburn professors and former school athletic director Mike Lude have said they were made aware of the situation thanks to Bowden.

Jackson, who played under coach Pat Dye, said he believes that college athletes, particularly those in revenue-generating sports such as Division I-A football, should get paid in addition to earning a scholarship.

"The players should definitely be better compensated," said Jackson, now an executive with N'Genuity Enterprises, an Arizona-based staffing firm. "I'd say 95 percent of college athletes come from a low-income family, and many people say they are just fortunate to get a scholarship and go to college. But some of these universities are earning tens of millions of dollars annually, and these athletes get nothing except a free set of books to go to class."

Jackson said that athletes should be able to receive a cost-of-living stipend -- for rent, food and gas -- if they live off campus.

In Jackson's Heisman season, he ran for 1,786 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Ten years later, in order to fulfill a promise he made to his late mother, he graduated from the university.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.