Regarding your statement about how athletes get tuition, food, and lodging, it reminds me of southern slave owners pointing out how their slaves received food and lodging, as well as some health care.
Given that student athletes can walk at any time I don't know that this is a very good analogy.
I spent some more time thinking about this one. I can break down student athletes into several categories and compare what the student gets compared to what the school get and in most cases I see the student ahead.
Case 1) Student in non-profitable sport (This is just about everything but football and occasionally basketball. If you are not a football powerhouse, football loses money also but at least you get national exposure.) The student get an education at a value of $20-$50k/yr depending on the school. The school loses money on the sport.
Case 2) Non-critical athlete in profitable sport. If you are the back-up left tackle, you are not bringing in the fans, but at least you are part of the team. The student gets the basic education at $20-$50k/year including room, board, better than standard medical, nutrition and training guidance. The school get TV contracts, alumni support dollars, ticket sales. It's hard for the student to complain since they aren't the star attraction but there would be no team without the 75% of players who have no chance at going pro.
Case 3) Marquee player. You get the news coverage and ESPN spreads your name and your school name all over airwaves. You're the reason the seats are packed and the bowl game payouts are going to the school. Even at the best schools, we are talking maybe 20% of the players in the profitable programs. You can be the best collegiate tennis player in the world and the school will still lose money on you so we're really just talking football and basketball and basketball really doesn't make that much money unless you are Duke, Kentucky or Indiana. The student (who enters college not yet physically mature enough or skilled enough to get to the pros) gets all of the above plus world class coaching, extensive media coverage orchestrated by the school and preferential access to the NFL and NBA scouting organizations with the full expectation that he will be able to parley that into a high six or seven figure salary even if he is in a position that doesn't get all the glory. The student can also count on having the support players necessary to fully demonstrate his skills. After all, you can be a really great quarterback but without a line you still get sacked all the time. The university gets millions from numerous revenue streams including tickets, TV contracts, bowl payouts, merchandise and alumni donations.
In all three cases I think it's a win-win. The giant football programs are getting lots of money but they are providing a lot of benefits in term of contacts and job placement. They are also subsidizing all of those other sports teams. Soccer, wrestling, gymnastics, crew, etc don't exist without football and basketball unless they tack it on to tuition. I started out more in your camp, but now I think the existing system might not be so bad.