According to former sports agent Josh Luchs, amateurism in college sports (most notably, football and men’s basketball) is like Prohibition, “neither one of them works effectively.”
“Like Prohibition, the NCAA member institutions have created this underground marketplace without adequate and effective oversight,” said Luchs in a Q&A article by Patrick Hruby. “As long as you don’t address the needs of the student athletes, you’re going to continue to fuel the efforts of the bootleggers — in this case, the agents and runners — who are fulfilling those needs.”
The focus of colleges and universities should be education, not athletics. Big-time commercialized and professionalized college sports (primarily football and men’s basketball) corrupt higher education on many levels. These entertainment sports are about meeting commercial objectives, (see the recent conference realignment money grab craze for evidence), and, to a lesser degree, public relations objectives. Somewhere further down the list comes education.
Colleges and universities should have two choices when it comes to athletics:
1) Adopt the Division III/Ivy League model, which includes a ban on athletic scholarships. This model allows students, who are also athletes, to be students first, while providing the opportunity to compete in athletics as part of the overall educational experience.
2) At the Division I-A level (most notably in the BCS conferences), football, men’s basketball, and any other sport generating significant revenue, should be removed from the school’s athletic department and be reclassified as a business subsidiary under the university umbrella. The athletes would be paid. Scholarships would be allowed as part of the overall compensation package, but course enrollment would be optional.
To prevent athletes with huge market value from realizing that market value, while allowing schools to bring in millions of dollars of revenue and pay coaches up to $5 million a year is a shame. And, as civil rights historian Taylor Branch has said, it’s the civil rights issue of our time.
If the big-time Division I-A schools refuse these two options, in an effort at maintaing the status quo, the school’s athletic departments should have their educational tax-exempt status removed for the big business sports of football and men’s basketball — at a minimum. Undoubtedly, they will resist change. Thus, their tax-exempt status needs to be seriously challenged.
The current system in big-time college sports isn’t sustainable. The athletes are being exploited under the cover of archaic amateurism rules. The Olympics finally chucked their outdated model of amateurism. It’s time for the NCAA to follow suit.
“As long as the market for [college athletes] exists, you will have people who have a business model — under the table or otherwise — that tailors to that marketplace. And as long as that gap exists and the athletes have no other way to fill it, they’re being set up for scandal and failure,” says Luchs.
Prohibition in college sports is a failure. Let’s end it.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon