Deconstructing Amateurism

“I believe some day, if it's not resolved in one of the court cases or congressional order, players are not going to play the Final Four, they're not going to play one of those football games, and I want the world to tell the players they're wrong. The players control the whole outcome.”
-Sonny Vaccaro, former shoe marketing executive, architect of the O'Bannon case.

It is conceivable the student athletes of America will get their compensation sometime within the next 5 years. Ed O’Bannon’s Name Image and Likeness case against NCAA, the forming of Northwestern football teams labor union and the realization of individual and team power on Missouri’s campus is all escalating into the inevitable doom of amateurism and the student-athlete regime.

The power of the Missouri student-athletes forming with the voice of the Legion of Black Collegians shows just how much power the campus celebrities hold. Missouri’s University President Tim Wolfe resigned and the football team almost cost the university $1 million if they forfeited their game against BYU. Progress was made and is now affecting Iowa State University students.

One can only assume it will start reaching more campuses across the nation. This is starting a domino effect for student’s rights, including student-athletes. This power demonstrated is just a microcosm of how the students can combat the unjust treatment from the NCAA.

If the same energy and thought went into boycotting play because of unfair wages there would be a much bigger issue for the NCAA to handle.

O’Bannon’s case has to win. It just has to. There is a possibility that it will go to the federal courts earning maximum exposure and putting into perspective just how much things will change at the national collegiate level. This case, however, might only earn student athletes compensations of $5,000 in salary for their NIL rights (Name images and Likeness).

Certainly, this is a step in the right direction, but it still might not be enough to shake the foundations of amateurism. Education is the student’s only real source of compensation, something that costs average students tens of thousands of dollars to earn their degree; for athletes it is just not enough. These players sacrifice a lot to earn their time on the field. They play hard and earn their teams and universities big bonuses, millions of dollars… for some conferences billions.

Walter Byers inherited a great idea from Theodore Roosevelt to reform the rules and regulations of the booming college sport of football. Roosevelt put this coalition in place to regulate the sport and save it from the discontinuation at other colleges. Byers took advantage of his inherited power and realized the monopoly gained over the amateur sports market. That was 65 years ago, things have changed, the income of college sports continues to grow and dominate TV ratings every Saturday, every Bowl season and every March Madness.

The NCAA is the only realistic place for aspiring professional athletes to go for development and exposure. Yes, some players go overseas for basketball, and that is a great alternative, but not all sports have that option…especially football. The NBA and NFL respect the NCAA in only offering draft eligibility to players who spend the required amount of time at their university. These are all years where players miss potential salary, endorsement deals, professional level treatment and development. Players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant did not need to develop in college, look how they turned out.

Professional athletes are a fraction of a percentage of graduated student-athletes. Some college players fail at the highest level but earn their universities accolades and championships that put their school back into relevant rankings, i.e. Tim Tebow.

The fiscal abuse cannot go on forever, athletes should not have to go looking for semi-pro teams, Canadian leagues or overseas opportunities. They should have an equal opportunity to play and earn at the amateur level, education is another path that the NCAA has inflated to be a righteous compensation for the amateur athlete but in today’s changing society, it just is not enough. Players risk health, time, money and education for their schools, it is passed time that they be paid.