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

5
Athletic Scholarships: From Gifts to Employment Contracts

During the first half of the twentieth century, one of the most striking contrasts between the men and women who administered collegiate athletics was their attitude toward commercialism. As indicated in the previous chapter, the Women's Division Platform opposed college sport as a commercial spectacle. This position was in part an accommodation to the prevailing sexism of the time, which viewed any public display by women (including speaking out on public issues) as akin to prostitution.1 Leaders in women's collegiate sport opposed commercialism also because they felt it would place the needs of spectators above the educational needs of athletic participants.

The men who founded the NCAA, on the other hand, had little quarrel with commercialism. From the time of its founding in 1905, the NCAA has never passed a piece of legislation to limit gate receipts or in any other way impede the growth of college sport as a commercial spectacle. Professionalism, however, was a very different issue. Between 1906 and 1948, the NCAA, just like the CWA and other women's sport-governing bodies, was unequivocal in its opposition to financial inducements for talented athletes. NCAA policy encouraged professionalism by supporting the growth of college sport as a revenue-producing business, but it was not until 1956 that the NCAA incorporated professionalism into its constitution and bylaws.2 It was at this point that the question was increasingly raised as to how scholarship athletes differed, if at all, from other university employees.

Awarding athletic scholarships as inducements for playing sports violates long-standing amateur principles. Still, for the most part, the scholarships that

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