Wake up, wake up: The reality of amateurism

posted by Sports, Media & Society
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:19am EST

Marie Hardin, associate director of the Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, takes a look at the interaction of sports coverage and U.S. culture.

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The debate around amateurism in college athletics is not new, but a recently published article by Warren K. Zola, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at Boston College, offers some great insights that are worthy of attention.

Zola, just as others have done, points out the flaw in the NCAA's argument which maintains that college athletes are amateurs and should remain just that: unpaid.
"The argument is stale, the facts don't support reality, and the public is recognizing the absurdity of the NCAA's position," Zola asserted "They insatiably embrace commercialism in all facets of intercollegiate athletics except on a single issue -- athlete compensation."

The "NCAA empire," as Zola refers to the governing organization of intercollegiate athletics, has seen an "utter loss of perspective in implementing rules, policies and enforcement" in the last few decades.

The commercial endeavors deter institutions from focusing on the educational aspect and what should be the primary focus of student-athletes' experience: academic advancement.

Taylor Branch's article in the Atlantic, published in October of 2011, makes the case that college athletes, particularly football and basketball---and particularly minority---student-athletes, are exploited by the NCAA and their institutions. Branch called this a total moral and legal failure on the NCAA's part.

Zola takes upon Branch's critique and calls for a reform of intercollegiate athletics.

"The claim by the NCAA that they are protecting amateurism is but an illusion," Zola wrote. "It is time to wake up."

Perhaps the NCAA would set up a fund for student-athletes whose televised performances generate revenue for the schools or perhaps the NCAA could implement a compensation system. Or perhaps there is a different solution.

Either way, Zola's call for change should be noted. 

-- Dunja Antunovic

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