Author and columnist Malcolm Gladwell thinks college football—and eventually, the NFL—is headed for years of decline and possibly oblivion as concussion evidence rolls in and the lawsuits pile up. "The factor that I think will be decisive is the head-injury issue," he says in a Slate interview. "Colleges are going to get sued, and they will have to decide whether they can afford their legal exposure."
As far as Gladwell is concerned, good riddance. (He once famously compared football to dogfighting.) Good equipment can mitigate the damage of the big hit, but not so much of years of smaller hits. Parents are taking notice and keeping their kids away, and both the college and NFL feeder systems will suffer in the long run. In the meantime, it's only fair to pay college athletes, he says. If they have to "assume an as yet unknown risk of permanent physical and neurological damage, you should pay them," says Gladwell. "Properly. It's a bit much both to maim AND exploit college football players." Click for the full interview, in which he questions whether it's ethical to even watch football. (Read more college football stories.)