College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA's Amateur Myth

By Allen L. Sack; Ellen J. Staurowsky | Go to book overview

The Decline of the Amateur Spirit

In the late nineteenth century, the United States experienced rapid industrialization, and the competitive and acquisitive values of the marketplace began to pervade all of America's social institutions, including its colleges and universities. In this competitive environment, the traditional concept of amateurism, which had been so vital to liberal education, including sports, in British public schools and universities, came increasingly under attack in American schools. Die-hard advocates of amateurism (including elitist anglophiles as well as some faculty and college presidents) fought against athletic recruiting, athletic scholarships, under-the-table payments, lowered admission standards, and the other trappings of professionalism. Their efforts were futile. By 1905, the year in which the NCAA was created, rampant professionalism had spun out of control.


AMATEURISM AND THE GENTLEMAN-ARISTOCRAT

According to Barrington Moore, Jr., the amateur ideal, while most clearly associated with the British aristocracy, was probably embraced by the leisure classes in most preindustrial civilizations.1 At the very center of this ideal was the notion that aristocratic status indicates a "qualitatively superior form of being, whose qualities were hereditary rather than the fruit of individually acquired merits. . . ."2 Thus, the gentleman-aristocrat was not expected to put forth too great an effort in any single direction. He could strive for excellence, but not just in one activity and as a consequence of prolonged training. The

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