International Student Athletes in the NCAA: Professionals or Exploited Children?

By Stewart, Patrick L. | Houston Journal of International Law, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

International Student Athletes in the NCAA: Professionals or Exploited Children?


Stewart, Patrick L., Houston Journal of International Law


I. INTRODUCTION

II. FOREIGN STUDENTS IN AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION
    A. History of Foreign Students in American Colleges
       and Universities
    B. Current Economics and Distribution of Foreign
       Students
    C. Interests of the American People in Retaining
       Foreign Students
    D. Burdens that Foreign Student Athletes Face in
       America

III. DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT DEVELOPMENTAL SPORTS
     MODELS

     A. The European Union Model
     B. The American Model
     IV. National Collegiate Athletics Association

RULES AND STANDARDS
     A. Eligibility Requirements

V. SIGNIFICANT ISSUES WITH NCAA AMATEUR
ATHLETICS
     A. Loopholes
     B. Anti-Trust Issues

VI. PRACTICAL AND IMPRACTICAL SOLUTIONS
     A. Plausible Solution for International Student
        Athletes
     B. Implausible Total Change
VII. EPILOGUE

I. INTRODUCTION

Why can't eighteen-year-old Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter go to the University of Kentucky? An investigation by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) determined that Kanter received benefits beyond those required for actual competition from his club team in Turkey. "Enes took advantage of an opportunity to play at the highest level available to him, but the consequences of receiving payments above his actual expenses is not compatible with the collegiate model of sports that our members have developed," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs. (1)

Kanter is a recent example of the result of intermingling two systems of developmental athletics. (2) He was attempting to make the transition from the governmental and club model for developmental sports in Turkey (3) to the scholastic model in America, where athletic teams are tied to education. The underlying principles of amateurism promoted by the NCAA are directly at odds with the culture both ideologically and governmentally of that which Kanter was accustomed to. (4) The developmental athletics institutions in Turkey are built on a club and governmental model rather than a scholastic model. (5)

The result of the NCAA investigation into his amateur status determined that he received approximately thirty-three thousand dollars above his actual expenses not directly required for competition. (6) Included in these expenses were housing and travel provided to his family members. (7)

If Kanter's situation had been slightly different and he was born into the scholastic model for developmental athletics in the United States, his eligibility would not be in question. If Kanter had been born in America, he could have attended a private school on a scholarship that would have provided him with full-time room and board, and the NCAA would consider these expenses to be directly related to competition. (8) American-born amateur athletes and their parents have always found ways to fit in with the NCAA system and its rules that limit them from taking advantage of the opportunities presented by a packed stadium. If Enes had been born in the United States, his parents could have taken a high interest loan leveraged against their son's potential future income and current marketability as a blue chip recruit. (9)

For American-born students, the NCAA provides some exceptional multisport athletes with another alternative where they get paid and are still able to attend a NCAA university by getting paid in another sport. (10) If Kanter had played professional soccer, the most popular sport in Turkey, he could still be eligible to play basketball at Kentucky. (11) By way of example, college football is currently rich in former minor league baseball players following in the footsteps of former Heisman trophy winner Chris Weinke from Florida State University. (12) Chris Weinke played in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. (13) After six years playing professional baseball, Weinke switched gears and went to play football at Florida State University. …

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