Editorial | Only an amateur would consider the NCAA a nonprofit group

August 9, 2013 

The following editorial appeared Friday in The Florence Morning News:

The amateurism term applied to college athletes is getting awfully flimsy these days.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, aka “Johnny Football,” is under fire for allegedly accepting payment from an autograph broker for signing memorabilia.

NCAA rules prohibit college athletes from being paid or profiting from their name and image, including autographs, and it could put the college career of the Texas A&M quarterback in jeopardy.

Stud South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was also questioned, but later cleared, in a similar alleged pay-for-pen ploy.

The NCAA has long held itself up as the unflappable sentinel that upholds the tenors of amateurism and intercollegiate athletics within the realm of higher education.

However, there are ample facts that do not support the NCAA’s guardianship fairy tale. At www.shopncaasports.com, type in a popular player’s name – Clowney for instance – and a jersey with his USC #7 pops up.

It is another example that cements home the point that the “nonprofit” NCAA is indeed profiting off specific players, which it claims it does not.

A group of plaintiffs, which include both former and current NCAA athletes, are suing the NCAA for profiting off the likenesses of college athletes, including the conferences and the networks that televise the games. In anticipation of next year’s hearing, the NCAA has already pulled out of the video game market, games that just happen to feature a freakishly athletic defensive end for the Gamecocks who is in no way supposed to be Clowney.

Prior to playing, NCAA athletes have to sign a waiver that relinquishes their right to make money off of their likeness as an NCAA athlete. But, the NCAA insatiably embraces commercialism and exploits the athletes in the very way it restricts them for doing, making their antiquated concept of amateurism, at best, without normative grounding, or, at worst, an outright sham.

Steve Spurrier, USC’s head football coach, has long advocated that covering the costs of education is not enough, especially for those in the major revenue-generating sports, like football and men’s basketball. He has proposed an extra stipend be awarded to college athletes – something in the range of $2,000-$4,000 a year – to compensate the tremendous amount of money – billions, nationwide – they are helping to bring in.

Yes, these are student-athletes, but on the gridiron and the hardwood at least, the precarious balance between education and athletic competition is untenable – there’s too much money, too many boosters, too much everything at stake.

With condemnation of parts of the system even coming from the NCAA’s own president, Mark Emmert, it would seem a change is on the horizon, but as fans of any school mired in an NCAA probe could attest, the NCAA traditionally works at a snail’s pace, and rarely does the end decision seem to reflect lucid consistency.

Likely the impetus for collegiate athletic reform will come through either the legal system or the growing circle of critics. A revenue-sharing stream with the players that help produce it makes sense and would, in our opinion, make for a better product on the field by keeping some of the top athletes in schools longer as well as dispelling with some of the disreputable sycophants that seem to lurk around the top players.

Should every NCAA athlete be paid, even the ones whose sports do not have the giant television contracts? We don’t know the answer to that question. We would say we'll leave it up to the NCAA, but we don’t know when they'll get around to answering it.

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