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

2
The NCAA Turns Professional: 1906-1956

The primary impetus for recruiting and subsidizing college athletes in the early years of college sport was probably the prestige derived from being associated with a winning sports team. Colleges and universities needed the publicity, and successful sports teams gave students, alumni, trustees, and local fans something to be proud of. When "old Siwash" won, everyone associated with the institution shared vicariously in the victory. With the growth of mass media, college sports heroes became national heroes, and winning teams could raise a college from relative obscurity into national prominence.1 If the price to be paid for sharing in the prestige of a winning sports team was the subsidization of talented college athletes, there was no shortage of people to come forth with the money.

The success of college sport as a commercial enterprise in the first half of the twentieth century further increased the pressure on colleges and universities to recruit and to provide compensation for college athletes. Harvard spent $300,000 in 1903 to build the nation's first permanent football stadium. Yale followed in 1914 by constructing a stadium with a seating capacity of 75,000, making it the country's largest. As the market spread westward, huge stadiums became a common feature on college campuses. In 1923 the University of California at Berkeley built a stadium to seat 76,000 spectators. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, gate receipts at college games increased dramatically.2 The 1952 Pennsylvania-Notre Dame game was played at Franklin Field before 80,000 paying spectators. In that year, Pennsylvania's football team generated over $500,000 for its university.3 With these kinds of revenues and massive investments in infrastructure, it made absolutely no business sense

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