They bring in money for television broadcasting.
They work really hard and put themselves in dangerous situations. Sometimes they get injured.
Their name is on the back of their replica uniforms that is sold in stores and on NCAA.Com.
They appear on tv programs like ESPN and SportsCenter.
They are put in video games by EA Sports.
I do not believe college athletes should be paid to play. College is an arena for education and any funds the school has should go towards further education and should not be lining the pockets of a few select students, who are more than likely already receiving a free scholarship.
College football is big money but so is college tuition. Kids that play sports in college work very hard to play their sport and sometimes academics get pushed aside. If you can do both and graduate you are rewarded with paid tuition and a limitless trove of connections for job prospects. If you cannot do both you stop playing football and pay for college yourself and go the way of the normal college graduate.