Amateur Hour: Is The Ncaa Well Equipped To Protect The Amateur Status Of Student-Athletes?

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2019-05-01

Authors

Bramlett, Andrew

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Abstract

Founded in 1906, one of the primary responsibilities of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) was to protect the amateur status of college athletes. Over the last century, the lines have blurred, and in 2019 the NCAA lacks both a consistent definition of amateurism and the confidence of the public in their ability to protect it. This thesis aims to illuminate how the NCAA is currently working to protect amateurism for young athletes, and what options they have in the future to maintain and improve their ability to do so.College athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry, primarily reliant on the labor of (effectively) unpaid 18 to 22 year olds. In 1906, the absence of massive athletic-department paydays prevented many of the complications we see today. Public debate over whether the players (particularly in the high-revenue sports of football and basketball) should be paid for their efforts has reached an all-time high, and many lawsuits filed over the last two decades have questioned whether it is even legal for collegiate athletes to not receive payment for their play or likeness. I discuss the key takeaways of these debates and legal battles within this thesis. The NCAA faces other problems as well—inconsistent definition and application of amateurism, a threat of new entrants in the market for athletes aged 18 to 22, and growing revenues with opposing solutions on how to distribute them all threaten to impair the ability of the NCAA to protect young athletes. This thesis will examine the impact of each of these dangers to the NCAA. If the NCAA can make a few important changes, most specifically allowing players to be compensated for their likeness up to a reasonable point, it will have maintained a status of modified amateurism among college athletes while still compensating people more fairly for the value that they create. If the NCAA is unwilling or unable to further adapt its definition to protect and advocate for modified amateurism amongst student athletes, any amateurism within collegiate athletics may cease to exist.

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