And indeed the ethic of amateurism applies to nearly all of the approximately
420,000 student-athletes in American colleges and universities, except some
among the tiny few who may eventually have successful professional athletic
careers. Among student-athletes, most by far compete without expectation
of financial gain– even in big-time sports at big-time programmes.
student-athletes do legally receive scholarships to cover their costs of attend-
ing and living at school, plus “spending money” that allows them to maintain
an active social life. Their coaches and department administrators, however,
are sports professionals. And even so, the claim of amateurism often seems
more apparent than real. Some outstanding players attend college with no
expectation of earning a degree but are simply marking time before they turn
professional. The NBA, for example, does not allow athletes under the age
of 19 to be drafted into the league. As a result, many elite under-age players
spend only one or two years in college before leaving for the pros. Coach-
es and other college officials accept this because a great player can make a
significant difference in a team’s performance, and because the association
with players who become professionals –particularly high-profile profession-
als – enhances an sports programme’s brand and aids in recruiting new talent.
Meanwhile, graduation rates among football and basketball players in major
college programmes tend to be significantly below those of the general stu-
dent populations in the same institutions.
A final salient feature of intercollegiate athletics lies in the uneasy relation-
ship between colleges and universities and the ecosystem of professional
sports leagues. In the cases of the NFL and NBA, major college athletics pro-
grammes constitute a low-cost programme of training and development and
these professional leagues have little interest in sharing costs. At the same
time, they are naturally disinclined to honour the ethic of amateurism. It
is not uncommon, for example, for student-athletes or coaches sanctioned
by the NCAA to find employment in professional sports without prejudice.
Meanwhile, agents hover around promising college players seeking to recruit
them as early as possible, again without consideration for NCAA rules or fear
of sanctions. Illegal and improper payments to student-athletes and their
families are a major concern to officials throughout the layered governance of
intercollegiate sports.
GUARDING THE GAME Preserving the Integrity of Sport
1...,105,106,107,108,109,110,111,112,113,114 116,117,118,119,120,121,122,123,124