“College sports are like a fraternity,” Alston said. “A lot of people are going to get a couple of dollars, so I feel like I helped my brothers.”
In the early 1970s, the N.C.A.A. began banning the small stipends that some colleges and universities provided for athletes’ miscellaneous expenses and restricted scholarships to only tuition, books, room and board.
If athletes needed new clothes or snacks or a trip home, they had to cover the costs on their own. For players from less affluent families, like Alston, it often meant struggling to make ends meet. Alston said he and a teammate, Tavon Austin, now a receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, often called home and begged family members to send money.
If they got $20 or $30, Alston said, they would head to the grocery store and load up on hot dogs, buns and sandwich meat.
“There were some people who were O.K.,” he said of his fellow athletes. “They drove around in Mercedes-Benzes; they had family money. But for a lot of us, a full-ride scholarship wasn’t really a full ride. I’d be on the field and see all the revenue we were bringing in, and I had teammates who…