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Unpaid Professionals

Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports

Andrew Zimbalist
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Unpaid Professionals
    Book Description:

    Big-time college sports embodies the ideals of amateurism and provides an important complement to university education. Or so its apologists would have us believe. As Andrew Zimbalist shows in this unprecedented analysis, college sports is really a massively commercialized industry based on activities that are often irrelevant and even harmful to education. Zimbalist combines groundbreaking empirical research and a talent for storytelling to provide a firm, factual basis for the many arguments that currently rage about the goals, history, structure, incentive system, and legal architecture of college sports. He paints a picture of a system in desperate need of reform and presents bold recommendations to chart a more sensible future.

    Zimbalist begins by showing that today's problems are nothing new--that schools have been consumed for more than a century by debates about cheating, commercialism, and the erosion of academic standards. He then takes us into the world of the modern student athlete, explaining the incentives that, for example, encourage star athletes to abandon college for the pros, that create such useless courses as "The Theory of Basketball," and that lead students to ignore classes despite the astronomical odds against becoming a professional athlete. Zimbalist discusses the economic and legal aspects of gender equity in college sports. He assesses the economic impact of television and radio contracts and the financial rewards that come from winning major championships. He examines the often harmful effects of corporate sponsorship and shows that, despite such sponsorship, most schools run their athletic programs at a loss. Zimbalist also considers the relevance of antitrust laws to college sports and asks whether student athletes are ultimately exploited by the system.

    Zimbalist's provocative recommendations include eliminating freshman eligibility for sports, restricting coaches' access to "sneaker money" from corporations, and ending the hypocrisy about professionalism by allowing teams to employ a quota of non-students as well as to receive funding from the pro leagues. A mixture of lively anecdotes, hard economic data, cogent arguments, and clear analysis,Unpaid Professionalswill revitalize debate about a subject close to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2307-9
    Subjects: Business, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    On page one of the 1997–98 NCAA Manual the basic purpose of the National Collegiate Athletic Association is written: “to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body and, by doing so, retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.” Some may wonder whom do they think they are kidding.

    In December 1996, Notre Dame was playing its final regular season football game against the University of Southern California. The Notre Dame placekicker missed an extra point at the end of...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Student as Athlete
    (pp. 16-53)

    In 1996 the Wildcats of Northwestern University went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949. The Wildcats had not had a winning record since 1971. In September 1995 their odds of making it to the Championship Game of the Big Ten and Pacific Ten Conferences could not have been much better than Ross Perot’s chances of being elected president. There were good reasons for Northwestern’s 47-year Rose Bowl drought. Northwestern spent $363,000 on recruiting (just three-fifths what their competitors in the conference spent) and graduated a Big Ten high 93 percent of their student-athletes (compared to an...

    (pp. 54-73)

    Jennifer Baldwin Cook played on the women’s ice hockey team at Colgate University from 1987 through 1990.1 In 1990, the women’s team went to the national championship and made it to the finals. Yet the university did not believe that Jennifer’s team was worthy of its support.

    The women’s hockey team at Colgate was organized in 1978 as a club, rather than a varsity sport. Club status meant that the team members had to self-finance the team, rather than receive funding from the athletic department budget. The twenty-eight women skaters did not receive athletic aid. They had to buy their...

    (pp. 74-89)

    In 1960, Marianne Crawford was six years old, old enough for her Uncle Jack to teach her how to reach a basket with an underhand toss. The basketball court was just across the street from the rowhouse where Marianne lived with her six older siblings, her mother, and father, a Yellow Cab superintendent, just outside Philadelphia. She often tagged along with her brothers to neighborhood games after school.¹

    One afternoon when Marianne was thirteen her father came out to the court to find her straddling a boy and mercilessly pummeling his face. The unfortunate fellow had made the mistake of...

    (pp. 90-124)

    When the NCAA was founded back in 1905, its primary purpose was to sanitize and standardize the playing rules for football in order to preserve it as an intercollegiate sport. The Association also articulated a philosophy of amateurism, but it had no pretensions to coordinate the economic policies of its membership. Rather, the explicit NCAA policy was known as “home rule,” meaning that each institution was in control of its own athletics program. The “home rule” policy was not seriously altered until the 1948 Sanity Code attempted to control financial aid to, and recruitment of, athletes, which, in short order,...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Commercial Connections
    (pp. 125-148)

    Edwin lohn had been going to University of Southern California (USC) football games for sixty years, the last forty as a season ticket holder. In 1980, when USC established its “Cardinal and Gold Club,” Edwin purchased a lifetime membership for $10,000. This membership entitled Edwin to buy season tickets every year on the 50-yard line. Edwin played rallying calls on his trumpet at the games and his car’s license plate read “LOVESC.” In 1995, USC informed Edwin and the other two thousand members of the Cardinal and Gold Club, which cost $20,000 for life or $2,000 a year to join,...

    (pp. 149-172)

    Do intercollegiate athletics drain or support university budgets? The answer depends on whom one talks to and the occasion. University athletic directors trying to persuade a school to build a new sports facility or upgrade to Division I or IA (in football) invariably talk about the expected financial payoff to big-time college athletics. Academic economists, arguing that the NCAA is a cartel (independent producers joining together to form an effective monopoly), seem to feel compelled also to assert that big-time athletic programs are profitable. Why? Because monopolies, economic theory tells us, generate higher profits than competitive firms. Yet critics, such...

    (pp. 173-187)

    Just as the Bible distinguishes between venial and mortal sin, the NCAA has two categories of infractions: secondary and major. And just as God created night and day, the NCAA Manual in Article 17, Section 1, Subsection 5 provides humanity with a “Definition of Day”: “A day shall be defined as a calendar day (i.e., 12:01 A.M. to midnight). Adopted 1/10/91,” leaving one to wonder how “Genesis” could have been written before the NCAA Manual.

    One might think that with 964 schools, 3 volumes, and 1,268 pages of rules and regulations, and an annual budget of $283 million, the NCAA...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Whither Big-Time College Sports? REFORM AND THE FUTURE
    (pp. 188-206)

    In many real senses, the history of the NCAA is a history of reform—failed reform. The Association was born out of the need to diminish violence in football at a time when commercialism was already rampant. As documented in earlier chapters, these problems were readily perceived, and educational leaders energetically railed against the excesses of college sports.

    Throughout the decades various reforms have been essayed, each with a certain sincerity and optimism. As the Association has tinkered with eligibility requirements, length of the playing season, revenue distribution formulae, rules of amateurism, etc., the problems of college sports have continued...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 207-244)
  14. Index
    (pp. 245-252)