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

8
Putting the Amateur Myth to Rest

ROOTING FOR THE UNDERDOG

As the twentieth century comes to a close, it appears that athletic professionalism in the form of athletic scholarships and other financial subsidies has become a permanent fixture in most spectator-oriented collegiate sport. And as the previous chapter indicates, the corporate model seems destined to set the tone for both men's and women's athletics well into the next century. Proposals for truly amateur models, grounded in need-based financial aid, seem quixotic in an era when Nike, Reebok, and television networks shape collegiate athletic policy. Even the Patriot League, one of the last islands of amateur sport in Division I, has recently set aside its opposition to athletic scholarships in order to join the race for college basketball's "pot of gold."1

Although the future looks bleak for genuinely amateur collegiate sport, one should not discount the sport cliché that "it is never over until it is over." In fact, even at amateurism's darkest hour, the NCAA is supporting policies that could conceivably have the unintended consequence of letting the underdogs back into the game. The NCAA's 1997 decision to restructure so that each division has greater autonomy is a case in point.2 On the face of it, giving Division I football conferences freedom to run their businesses as they please seems to reaffirm the dominance of the professional model. However, by distancing themselves from schools with smaller athletic budgets and with histories of putting the academic needs of athletes first, the superpowers may have actually increased their vulnerability to a number of legal challenges.3

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