SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Northwestern University athletes can form a union, according to a ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board. The decision could lead to big changes in the college athletics business, worth billions of dollars.

“Unionizing or not, I think that college athletes one way or the other should get paid,” John Madden told the KCBS Radio morning crew.

“The way they have it now with NCAA rules so restrictive, a player doesn’t get enough money… I think that’s a problem that has to be solved.” Most of the top college players have scholarships, but is that fair compensation?

“We always talk about the NFL being big business and it is. But college football is a pretty doggone big business,” Madden said.

“Michigan and those places have 80-90,000 people (attending games.) But even bigger than that now is they all have television contracts. And not only do they have television contracts, but they have their own network. When you add crowds and then you add alumni support and then you add television revenue from the regular networks and you add their own networks, that’s big, big business.” (6:30)

(Listen to the John Madden segment live weekday mornings at 8:15 on KCBS All News 740 AM/106.9 FM.)