UF coach Billy Donovan says schools should be free to do more to help players beyond the cost of a full scholarship.
College basketball's showcase event has continued to grow in popularity and earning power, reportedly generating more than $1 billion in TV revenue in 2013.
NCAA rules forbid players from receiving any of the money generated during the tournament, while TV networks, the schools and coaches get rich.
Donovan himself has earned $250,000 in bonuses to reach this year's Final Four, and would earn $150,000 more if his team wins it all. Yet, star point guard Scottie Wilbekin cannot get a free meal from a local restaurant excited about the Gators' success.
"The idea that a kid can't get a free hamburger somewhere, it doesn't make any sense to me," Donovans said. "What's the big deal? How is that hurting anybody. I get, 'Well, then it leads to this and this and this.' I get some of those thoughts.
"But there's some common sense things I think that we can do to insure that from a normal student activity life they can have money in their pocket and be able to do things."
College football has been forced to address the topic recently, with players at Northwestern University being awarded the right to unionize. The school is appealing the decision by the National Labor Relations Board.
Donovan sympathizes, though he isn't sure what might be the ideal way to help support athletes.
"I think the players do deserve more things," he said. "There are certain things that I think are out-dated and don't make sense in a lot of ways. What those things are, should they be paid? I don't know what it is. But there needs to be more done for the student-athletes, in my opinion.
"They make an incredible investment. They obviously are generating a lot of dollars on college campuses, and I don't know what the solution is. I do know that there needs to be a better way to take care of them in a way that maybe would not jeopardize or violate them being considered professionals. I think there's ways that we can do that."
Ollie, who played for the Huskies in the 1990s and a 13-year NBA career, said schools should be free to pay for player family travel. Ollie said he also would like to see athletes leave school with medical benefits until they are able to receive the same from a job.
"They allow their kids to come to the University of Connecticut all the way from Los Angeles, California, which I came," Ollie said. "Some things like that has to change. Hopefully we can do that. Hopefully we can keep the integrity of the NCAA and the student-athletes, but everything in life is always evolving. I think we have to get to a point where it's evolving."
To make his point, Ollie simply looked around him.
This week's Final Four will be played at $1.43 billion, 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys.
"The game has changed," Ollie said. "This venue has changed. I remember when I was playing in college when we went to the tournament, we wasn't playing in venues like this. Everything has changed and evolved and in some way, somehow, the student-athlete, that dynamic has to evolve and change."Email Edgar Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Swamp Things blog at www.orlandosentinel.com/swampthings. Follow our UF coverage on Twitter @osgators.