In order to fix the problem one must first not just admit there is a problem, but recognize what the problem is. Big-time college sports (mostly football) is in crisis for one very simple reason: Too many players are being forced to go to college when all they want to do is play ball.
Hockey and baseball don't have this problem. After high school a kid may get drafted. He has a choice -- college or the pros. If he turns down the pros -- and its lure of entering the minor-league system at its lowest levels and working his way up -- then one has to conclude that the kid wants to be in college.
Either way, the athlete is controlling his environment and likely causing no problems.
In college football and basketball, there is no minor-league system in place for a kid after high school. On top of that, each league has rules in place to prohibit them from going straight from high school to the NFL/NBA, even if they were able. The NFL bans kids for three years. The NBA currently bans kids for one year, but many believe that ban will jump to two years when the next labor deal is agreed upon before next season.
So the NCAA and the 120 schools that play major college football (more than 340 schools play Division I basketball) end up with essentially a bunch of talented, but likely at some point, disgruntled workers. These workers are often the ones that the "outside forces" of big-time sports are preying upon.
Think about it, from the improper contact with agents, to the selling of memorabilia, to the receiving of improper gifts virtually every one of these athletes would have gone pro at the first opportunity. They were stuck in a system they did not want to be a part of.
Throw in how young and immature these athletes are and we should all be surprised it has taken this long for the system to begin failing.
What can the NCAA do to fix this problem? Convince the NBA and NFL to create a true minor league system -- a legitimate place where those that want to play ball and do not want to sign up to be a student-athlete can go and get paid to play.
Imagine if each team contributed just $1 million a year (well below an average salary) toward the running of a minor league?
Major League Baseball and the NHL have such minor leagues. All the while college baseball and hockey are thriving. Nearly half of the Vancouver Canucks players in the Stanley Cup finals are products of the college hockey system.
The NBA and NFL could easily do this.
But they won't. Because why would these guys spend millions when the NCAA and its schools are giving it to them for free?
The NCAA needs to play hardball. Hire some attorneys and threaten to blow up the draft system in both sports as they know it. Threaten to pass tough new academic requirements that will make it so more than half the current athletes wouldn't even be able to get into these colleges (threatening to dump these kids on the street, in junior colleges, wherever -- but they won't be a part of major college athletics).
Look the NBA and NFL straight in the eye and say, "We're going to clean up college sports, with or without you. It's your call."
National titles are being vacated. What does the NCAA have to lose?