By Ken Reed

Dan Wetzel is an American treasure. He’s one of the best sportswriters we have in this country. He’s a columnist for Yahoo! Sports and his September 11th column is one of his best. He lays out the mess that is big-time college athletics today. But instead of focusing on the numerous scandals, he shines the spotlight on the essence of the problem, the unethical model at the core of college sports: amateurism. It’s time the NCAA boots shamateurism, just like the International Olympic Committee did a few decades ago.

Here’s Wetzel on amateurism:

Amateurism is a bankrupt concept. It was invented by British aristocrats in the mid-1800s as a way to keep working-class athletes from succeeding at their elitist pursuits. Basically, as long as guys who had to labor in factories six days a week were worn out from the work and lacked time to practice, the rich guys who never dealt with such concerns would continue to be superior at sailing or dressage or cricket or whatever. So the bourgeoisie who didn’t need the money declared it noble to play for no pay. How nice of them. Their true reasoning, of course, was to assure the continuation of their favored status on an uneven playing field of competition.

This detestable idea was later co-opted by the NCAA and the modern Olympic Games (the ancient Greek athletes were actually paid). The public was then repeatedly sold the idea of the innocence of amateurism and sold it well. This conveniently allowed the powerful administrators to control all the revenue produced.

Amateurism is a sham in practice, too, one that simply isn’t being followed or respected, as story after story after story proves. So many of the athletes, players and administrators don’t believe in it. That’s the value of the coverage. It’s made denying the extent of the violations laughable.

Enforcing amateurism became so impossible and ridiculous that even the International Olympic Committee – still in favor of kickbacks and bribes, mind you – gave up on it … nearly three decades ago. The Olympics didn’t collapse because Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps can appear in TV commercials. It actually got more popular. It’d be no different in the college game.

See the rest of Wetzel’s column here.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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