Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

By Ronald A. Smith | Go to book overview

XIII

Eligibility Rules in a
Laissez-Faire Collegiate Scene

THE DEVELOPMENT OF the professional model and its emphasis upon excellence and winning had a dramatic impact upon the recruitment of athletes and the need for eligibility rules. From an early period in American intercollegiate athletic history, there was pressure to bring in athletes with little regard for academic considerations. This, like nearly all other aspects of intercollegiate sport, began under student control. Recruiting expanded under the professional coach, and as the twentieth century progressed, recruiting and keeping athletes scholastically eligible for athletic competition became a full-time job.

Conflicting eligibility rules probably led to more problems between colleges than any other concern in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were also a principal reason why colleges were forced to consider inter-institutional controls following a period of laissez‐ faire mentality in which each college determined for itself what eligibility rules it would use. Thus in the generation before the NCAA was formed, attempts to solve a myriad of eligibility disputes tested the patience of students, coaches, alumni, faculty, and college administrators. Included among the concerns were the participation of graduate students and alumni; the recruitment and eligibility of freshmen; the question of bona fide students; the status of non‐ degree, "special" students; and the residency of transfer students and athletic "ringers." Attempts at solving the eligibility problems

-175-

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