Academic journal article The Sport Journal

NCAA Division I Athletics: Amateurism and Exploitation

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

NCAA Division I Athletics: Amateurism and Exploitation

Article excerpt


Last winter, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) president Mark Emmert was asked by a group of sports media members about the possibility of paying college athletes. Emmert responded, "We can never move to a place where we are paying players to play sports for us" (Garcia, 2010, para. 9). "No, it will not happen--not while I'm president of the NCAA," he later stated ("NCAA president," 2011, para. 17). These comments sparked the reoccurring ethical discussion concerning the topic of amateurism and exploitation in college athletics. While many believe as amateurs, college athletes are receiving more than their fair share through athletic scholarships, others argue universities are exploiting their own student-athletes. The questions remain unanswered. Should college athletes be compensated beyond their athletic scholarships, and specifically, are the NCAA and its institutions exploiting student-athletes?

The questions involved in this discussion are unable to be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." In order to knowledgeably discuss the subject, there first needs to be a foundational understanding of the basic terms of amateurism and exploitation. In addition, the relationship between the two terms and intercollegiate athletics should be clearly defined. A history of the evolution of college sports and the role of student-athletes over the last two centuries must be examined also. The author will attempt to use all of this information to answer several key questions related to the topic of paying college athletes in order to determine if student-athletes are being exploited and, if exploited should they be compensated above their athletic scholarships?

Surprisingly, studies have not demonstrated an overwhelming support for paying student-athletes above their athletic scholarships. Schneider (2001) investigated college students' perceptions of giving compensation to intercollegiate athletes in addition to the standard grant-in-aids. Of the 458 students (275 males and 183 females from 1 Division 1 athletic conference) surveyed, only a slight majority (54%) of the students believed athletes should receive additional compensation. Nevertheless, it is a subject that has again (even recently) become a hot topic in college athletics.

Amateurism and Exploitation in Collegiate Athletics

When it comes to debating whether or not college athletes should be paid, the two most often used terms are amateurism and exploitation. Neither term is new to intercollegiate athletics. Actually, both subjects have been topics of discussion for the NCAA since its inception in the early 1900s ("History," 2010). Today, these two words drive both sides' arguments concerning paying and exploiting student-athletes.

Amateurism Defined

Simply put, collegiate amateurism refers to the fact the athletes do not receive remuneration for their athletic services. College athletes today are referred to as student-athletes. The governing body of college athletics, the NCAA, views these individuals as students, not as professionals or employees of their member schools. Thus, student-athletes are not currently monetarily compensated (Murphy & Pace, 1994). According to the NCAA, student-athletes' participation in athletics is just another part of their entire education, not the primary purpose for attending college (Meggyesy, 2000).

Late in the 19th century, college authorities conceived this idea of amateurism in an effort to maintain schools' educational integrity and middle- and upper-class standing by not technically paying athletes (Flowers, 2009). "A Gentleman never competes for money," once wrote author Walter Camp (Flowers, 2009, p. 354). As sports' popularity and revenues increased over the next several years, athletes were given incentives such as free room, board, and tuition. In the middle of the 1900s, the NCAA instituted its key piece of legislation, the Sanity Code, in an attempt to preserve amateur sports while still allowing schools to compensate athletes (Kahn, 2007). …

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