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College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA's Amateur Myth by Ellen J. Staurowsky,Allen L. Sack

  • Author: Ellen J. Staurowsky,Allen L. Sack
  • Book title: College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA's Amateur Myth
  • Category: Education & Teaching
  • Subcategory: Schools & Teaching
  • Publisher: Praeger (July 30, 1998)
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 0275961915
  • ISBN13: 978-0275961916
  • Rating: 4.1
  • Votes: 528
  • Other formats: mbr rtf lrf docx

Many books have been written on the evils of commercialism in college sport, and the hypocrisy of payments to athletes from alumni and other sources outside the university. Almost no attention, however, has been given to the way that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has embraced professionalism through its athletic scholarship policy. Because of this gap in the historical record, the NCAA is often cast as an embattled defender of amateurism, rather than as the architect of a nationwide money-laundering scheme.

Sack and Staurowsky show that the NCAA formally abandoned amateurism in the 1950s and passed rules in subsequent years that literally transformed scholarship athletes into university employees. In addition, by purposefully fashioning an amateur mythology to mask the reality of this employer-employee relationship, the NCAA has done a disservice to student-athletes and to higher education. A major subtheme is that women, such as those who created the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), opposed this hypocrisy, but lacked the power to sustain an alternative model. After tracing the evolution of college athletes into professional entertainers, and the harmful effects it has caused, the authors propose an alternative approach that places college sport on a firm educational foundation and defend the rights of both male and female college athletes. This is a provocative analysis for anyone interested in college sports in America and its subversion of traditional educational and amateur principles.

7 Reviews
As President of a D1 Athletic dept. fundraising board as well as a close friend of a recent coach who was fired during a scandal, I felt it was appropriate to review the role of college athletics in America. This book was a great starting point and gave exceptional historical reference to understand how our system got to where it is today.
This book reads like a college text so don't buy this for entertaining reading unless you are prepared to study this subject. The historical review is exceptional. I have to admit that I did not fully read the substantial section on women athletics although I did summary read. There were debates and NCAA rules passed in the 40s I was not aware of and am glad I discovered in this book. It also shows a historical backdrop to why the south is so overzealous about college sports. Frankly, I'm glad I read this book and would recommend it for anyone interested in the subject. I would not recommend it for light reading. The unique experience of the writers gives you respect in their ability to write this book and the opening by the athlete who was paralyzed frames why this subject should be reviewed further. As cynicism is creeping into my love for the sports of my alma mater, this book helped me understand the issues better.
Mr.Sack and Ms. Staurowsky have seen collegiate athletics from the inside. Sack as a former scholarship football player at the Mecca of college football, the University of Notre Dame. Staurowsky as a former athlete, coach, and athletic director in the infancy of women's struggle to level the distribution of funding in college sports with their male counterparts. This "insider's" view gives the authors a vast amount of personal experience to draw from. But this book is not an expose` of personal experiences with college improprieties. The purpose of this manuscript is to educate the reader about the history of college sport and to dispel the theory that today"s Division I-A revenue producing programs are amateur athletics at their finest.
Part I of College Athletes for Hire, gives the reader an intense background on the amateur ideal that was a vital part of the lifestyle of the Gentleman-Aristocrat in Great Britain. To these "gentleman", sport was a leisure time activity. An important point here has an interesting effect on the path of college sports in America. With this amateur view, the sport of choice was partaken to benefit the athlete, not the spectator. When the focus of sport turned to the spectator, the amateur ideal was clouded.
Although this portion of the book is not an easy read, it expresses a movement towards spectatorship that, I believe had a tremendous effect on collegiate sport. This "spectatorism" in the early 1900's, was limited to attending games in person or listening via radio. But in the 1950's when the modern convenience we know as television came along, tremendous financial opportunities existed for the institutions and the governing bodies.
It was also recognized that a renowned athletic team could be used as a marketing tool to bring students into the hallowed halls of universities. With all of the benefits a university could take anvantage of if their ahtletic teams performed well, it was no wonder that many athletes were recruited and induced to participate on the collegiate level. The authors make strong arguments that these factors, along with the athletic scholarship, lead collegiate athletics down the professional path while an amateur myth existed that portrayed the image of the student-athlete as just that, a student first and athlete second.
Chapters 3 and 4 are dedicated to the history of women in collegiate athletics. These chapters present the adherence to the amateur ideal found in early women's athletics. Female athletes were not subjected to the pressure of revenue production nor did they receive the benefit of athletic scholarships. Women's collegiate athletics had followed the amateur ideal and seemed to serve the participant more effectively from both the athletic and academic standpoint.
Chapter 5 is the focal point of the authors' belief that with the current athletic scholarship format, today's collegiate athlete is in fact a professional. This chapter delves into the NCAA's policies on the existance of an employee-employer relationship between school and student-athlete. Workers' compensation cases seemed to be very important to the NCAA in maintaining the status-quo of the student-athlete. Legally, if an injured player sued for workers' compensation and won, he or she would be considered an employee.
As scholarships became one-year renewable agreements that would be removed should the student cease athletic participation, they became very close to employment contracts. The NCAA spent considerable time and effort in maintaining the view that the athlete was not being compensated to participate in sport, while eliminating the four-year "full ride" in favor of the one-year renewable agreement. With these one-year scholarships, coaches could cancel the aid given to a student who did not perform as expected or who became injured. To my thinking, if the grant can be removed by a coach for poor performance or injury, the agreement becomes contingent upon athletic participation. This means that the student-athlete is there to perform a service, if he or she can no longer perform to the satisfaction of the University (coach), the compensation (scholarship) is removed. In effect, the student-athlete's worth to the university is evident in that, the scholarship continues only if you participate at a high level. If the athlete ceases to play, or play well, then the "payment" is removed.
The chapters on the progression of women's sport give the reader a parallel history to compare to that of the revenue generating sports. Female athletes have been able to enjoy the total college experience without the need to focus all of their attention on the sports they were participating in. Although the desire to win and perform well was still there, the ability to walk away should the sport take too much away from studies existed until recently. When athletic scholarships came along, as well as the Title IX Amendment, and when women's professional leagues came into play, NCAA play became the pro sports proving ground for women as well as men.
To me the underlying theme in the book is the apparent professionalism of today's college Division I-A program. Revenue producing college sports are big business for the universities, the NCAA, the coaches, the footwear companies, and the television networks, everyone other that the athlete. I agree completely with the authors suggested reform. The NCAA should either admit that these athletes are professional or remove athletic scholarships that are not based on need.
The book was well researched and cited a large quantity of archival information. At times this makes the reading difficult. I see the book as an historical account of college sports in America, or more specifically, the history of the NCAA and their amateur ideal.It would have been great to hear some of Mr. Sack's personal experiences as a major college athlete. His personal experiences would have given the reader something to relate to other than just facts and figures.
An in depth look at the evolution of both amateurism andthe NCAA, Sack & Staurowsky take a historical view to show how theNCAA falsely classifies college athletes as amateurs. The authors look at current labor and contract laws, as well as historical court cases, to draw comparisons to what the NCAA refers to as athletic scholarships. Are athletic scholarships a gift given for ability? Or, are they a payment for services rendered. The authors argue that scholarships are an employment contract for services. The fact that the scholarships must be renewed every year by the coach, and can be taken away from a player for what the coach deems poor performance, or for that matter even an injury, make the arguement a very strong one. If scholarships were merely a gift, then shouldn't an athlete be allowed to walk away from the sport with no prospect of financial harm?
By current NCAA standards, the authors say this is not the case. "College Athletes for Hire" shows how and why the NCAA passed legislation allowing for one year renewable scholarships giving total control of the coach over the athlete both on the field, and in some cases off. Furthermore, athletes are awarded these athletic scholarships on athletic ability alone, with no consideration of academics or, in many cases, personal character. The thesis argued by Sack and Staurowsky that athletes are already 'unpaid professionals' is even stronger when the authors use a legal perspective to show how courts have interpreted employment contracts. When discussing amateurism and scholarships, a working definition and background is needed.
The book does a good job in providing a history of what amateurism is defined as. The use of the word scholarship, and how the NCAA defines an athletic scholarship, is also thoroughly discussed to avoid any confusion of the use of these terms. While reading the book, it was alarming to consider the point that Universities, athletic directors, and coaches can financially benefit from ticket sales, sponsorships, and endorsements, while the athletes are not allowed anything more than a full scholarship.
Although the topic is well studied, this is not a book to take with you to read leisurely. It is highly academic and close examination of the issues expressed is needed to fully understand the thesis presented. The authors do not seem to have a separate agenda or act as lobbyists for any organization; rather, they have strong beliefs in what they consider to be wrong in inconsistant by the NCAA's treatment and defining of college athletes.
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