NCAA Must Abolish Amateurism Once And For All


The NCAA has been dealing with a lot of public scrutiny recently and it’s continuing to get worse, particularly with the FBI investigation that has taken the college basketball world by storm for the past several months.

This whole colossal mess began last September, when four NCAA assistant coaches and one Adidas executive, were arrested for cases of fraud, bribery and corruption, involving the recruitments of many up-and-coming high school basketball players.

Schools originally implicated in the report included the likes of Arizona, USC, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Miami, and Louisville. These initial findings ultimately led to multiple dismissals, such as the subsequent firings of Louisville Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich. 

Another gigantic bombshell was laid upon the NCAA’s doorstep on Friday afternoon, as federal documents surfaced that more than 20 schools, including blue-blood programs such as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas, Texas, and USC also violated NCAA rules, according to Yahoo! Sports. 

Right now, at least twenty-five players have been referenced to have accepted impermissible benefits. Michigan State forward Miles Bridges, Alabama guard Collin Sexton and Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr. were three current players mentioned in the report, which could have drastic implications on the upcoming NCAA Tournament in a few weeks (although Duke released a statement stating that Carter’s athletic eligibility would not be affected).

As many as six players were named to have taken over $100,000 in collected payments at some point either before or during their college careers, including Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State), Brooklyn Nets Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall), Philadelphia 76ers guard and 2017 No. 1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz (Washington), and Miami Heat center Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (Kentucky), among several others.

ESPN has reported that as many as three dozen Division I programs could be directly affected by this scandal, and the NCAA needs to act quickly in response to a situation that has never been seen at such a massive scale before.

So what happens now? The solution should be quite simple.

It is time for the NCAA to abolish the code of amateurism, once and for all.

For many years, the NCAA has been governing an enterprise that has been utilizing athletics as an avenue towards extreme monetary gain, through commodities such as ticket sales, donations, media contracts, corporate sponsorships, royalties, licensing and merchandizing.

Business Insider has disclosed that in 2015 alone, 231 NCAA Division I schools reported to have produced a combined $9.15 million in revenue, with 24 of those institutions making over $100 million. Now, that’s a lot of money. 

In addition to these numbers, since the NCAA signed a lucrative 14-year, $10.8 billion television deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting back in 2011 to cover the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA has been racking up immense profit. This deal will only continue into the foreseeable future as an eight-year, $8.8 billion extension was agreed upon in 2016.

How much of that money do the athletes receive? None, except the promise of a free education.

This relates back to the idea of amateurism, which the NCAA considers the “bedrock principle of college athletics.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also believed in this principle, but not anymore. For years now, the path of the NCAA has mirrored that of the modern Olympic Games. Since its reestablishment in 1896, the Games’ main component was amateurism, until the IOC voted to allow professional athletes to represent their countries in 1989. This turned out to be a great decision, as the Olympics have never been more popular. No one cares that millionaires like Michael Phelps, Lindsay Vonn, Shaun White and LeBron James are participants in these sporting events. Fans just want to be entertained.

It is now time for college athletes to be allowed to control their images and profit off their success through the implementation of this revised Olympic model. These players should be able to use this open market to sign endorsement deals, sponsorship contracts, sell autographs, and, all in all, be able to market their athletic abilities as a brand, instead of just for “the love of the game.” 

This third-party compensation could also be beneficial for the NCAA, in the same way as it is for the athletes. Since these players are earning money for their work and achievements off-the-field, these students would feel more encouraged to actually stay in school, receive a proper education, and graduate, without the financial worries and responsibilities that encourage athletes to pursue the professional ranks prematurely. 

Consequentially, the increased revenues from the athletes’ advertisements and publicity would only expand the market for enthusiastic fans, higher ticket sales, television deals, and merchandising, among other assets. With the possibility of the NCAA’s best players returning for multiple seasons to finish their degrees, the quality and quantity of competition would make college sports even more fun to watch.

To close, Walter Byers, the man who stood at helm as the first executive director of the NCAA for 37 years and ruled with an iron fist as he pioneered the organization to its modern power, envisioned at one of his final public appearances after his retirement, that the current system will ultimately change. It is just a matter of time:

"Each generation of young persons come along and all they ask is, 'Coach, give me a chance, I can do it.' And it's a disservice to these young people that the management of intercollegiate athletics stays in place committed to an outmoded code of amateurism.”

"And I attribute that to, quite frankly, to the neo-plantation mentality that exists on the campuses of our country and in the conference offices and in the NCAA. The coach owns the athlete's feet, the college owns the athlete's body and the athlete's mind is supposed to comprehend a rulebook.”

“All of this is not fair, and I predict that the amateur code now based on a foreign philosophy and held in place for sheer economic purposes will not long stand the tests of the law.” 

Education and pay do not have to be mutually exclusive. Not only is this system the moral and the fair thing to do, it would also solve a lot of problems within the NCAA.