In the area of collegiate sports, there have been numerous heated debates about the integrity of many things concerning the NCAA and how it handles legal and ethical issues. Two well renowned scholars tackle this issue in their co-authored book entitled
College Athletes for Hire, The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAAs Amateur Myth written by Allen L. Sack and Ellen J. Staurowsky. In their book, the authors enlighten the reader on such issues as athletic scholarships, professionalism in college sports, and favoritism for athletes as well as many more important legal, and ethical issues that we as a country need to address. In this paper I will not do a standard book report by simply regurgitating the information I read in their book. Instead I will try my best to give you my opinion of the issues previously mentioned, and finally what the authors feel should be done to remedy this dilemma as well as my own opinion on the matter, but first I will discuss the issues involved in athletic scholarships.
It is not whether an activity is perceived to be enjoyable that distinguishes employment from leisure. Rather it is the presence or absence of instrumental constraint, ( p.4 ). This quote from the book best describes the problem of athletic scholarships as they exist today. Instrumental constraint is basically the control, or constraint of material rewards and resources, or in this case room and board or extra spending money for athletes receiving scholarships based on their athletic performance. The whole point of athletic scholarships are to free the already over taxed athlete from worrying about getting a full time job in order to pay for classes, spending money, and
room and board, on top of the full time job of school, and sports. But the dilemma is not in the money or in the scholarship itself; instead it lies in the eligibility and ethics of the issues. Take for instance Joe Schmoe, a well-rounded basketball player for the University of Anywhere. Last summer, after graduating from high school, Joe receives a letter from U of A offering him a full ride basketball scholarship starting this fall. Joe, excited as ever and not thinking of the fine print, agrees and leaves that September to attend the University. During that years regular season, Joe receives a resounding blow to his elbow and upper arm from a slip and fall accident on his way to class. The doctors tell Joe that he will not be able to play basketball ever again. Devastated, Joe returns to his dorm room and finds a letter from the university, informing him that he no longer has his full ride scholarship and must begin paying for his own room and board. Not able to pay for the $15,000 a year to attend the University, and his parents also unable to pay, Joe drops out of school and becomes a male dancer at the day and night dance club. Now the same thing would happen if Joe simply decided to no longer play for U. of A. in order to concentrate on his studies. Wheres the problem in this? Well, according to the NCAAs rules, no athlete may be a professional and receive payment while in college and playing college sports. But doesnt that sound like employment to you? Wasnt Joe just fired from his job of Basketball? Wasnt that athletic scholarship his salary? Look at the quote at the beginning of this paragraph and marinate on that for a minute, meanwhile Ill discuss the issue of professionalism in sports.
Schools that offer athletic scholarships have embraced a form of professionalism, and have made a conscious decision to use paid performers to attract revenue and/or publicity to their schools, (p.4).The main problem with professionalism in college sport is that what began as amateurs competing for the pure fun and pleasure of it, with a little bit of school rivalry, has turned into a multi-million dollar business. No longer is the focus on higher education, the focus is now on whether or not the NCAA can make 200 million dollars with ESPN or 250 million with NBC in contracting out the television rights. Back in 1952, the University of Pennsylvanias football team generated over $500,000 in revenues for its university. Did you know that none of the revenues that colleges make off this contract are taxable? Oh no, if the proceeds go towards the benefit of higher education, then Uncle Sam cant touch it, so now you know where Duke got the money to pay for its three best basketball players who will most likely bring in millions of dollars in revenue for making it to the final four this year. What if they became the national champions? How much money would they make then? All of it tax free and legal. When did colleges turn into multi million dollar corporations? When did they lose the idealism that still lives on in such groups as the Division III schools and the Ivy League? When was the last time you saw a Yale vs. Harvard rowing match on ESPN? Never, and do you want to know why? Because nobody will pay to watch it, and those universities have the integrity to keep education, critical thinking skills, and a general questioning of the status quo as their top priority. Finally I would like to discuss the disgusting practice of favoritism that runs rampant in the NCAA.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a major athletic program in the country that does not lower admissions standards for athletes, especially in the revenue-producing sports of football and basketball, ( p.96 ). Is this college or the NBA, or NFL? Is the focus for colleges higher education, critical thinking, and the development of the leaders of tomorrow? Or is it to bring in the best ball player, the most revenue, and the most popularity? According to this book, full-time students at the University of Notre Dame have average combined SAT scores in the 1,260 range, and 94% of freshman in 1995 were in the top fifth of their high school graduation class. Yet, the SAT average for their football team was about 890, 30% lower than that of the AVERAGE student, not exactly CEO material huh? The mens basketball team at St. Johns University had an SAT score of 784. And you get 400 points for just signing your name!A recent study based in part on NCAA data found that the average athlete on a top college football or mens basketball team enters college in the bottom quarter of his class, ( p.96 ). When colleges substitute athletic prowess for academic integrity, they lose respect for an unethical decision, as the authors of this book put it, the major task of a university is to challenge falsehood and ideology, not to perpetuate them.
In conclusion Id like to give the authors suggestions for reform as well as my own. First and foremost the NCAA needs to treat its athletes with far more respect than
it does now, if a player is injured there needs to be some form of workers compensation; for in fact, athletes are employees of the university. Secondly, if an athlete is given a full
ride scholarship, it should not be revocable, but instead should be on a yearly basis, this way if an athlete decides to quit, he has one year to get his grades up enough for an
academic scholarship or gives him time to apply for grants and other means of financing his higher education. Third, I feel that since the NCAA continuously runs itself and its member colleges as a business entity, I feel that the athletes and Uncle Sam should get their fair share of the revenues they bring in. Finally I feel that universities should not reap the benefits of our communitys athletic ability solely for the purpose of revenues and athletic prowess; athletes should be upheld to the same academic standards as the rest of the universities students and not treated like some skilled idiot who can jump and put a round ball through a hoop, give me a break, this is college, not the NBA.
List of References
1) Bennett pleads innocent to charges Sports Illustrated. Article.
March 05, 2001,
2)Crime Among NFLs Super Bowl Players APBnews.com. Article.
January 25, 2000, article by Jim Edwards