Opinion: NCAA in desperate need of change in regulations defining amateur status

Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating more than 20 College Basketball programs for potential National Collegiate Athletic Association rule violations. Schools that are under investigation include: Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan State, and University of Southern California.

To dive deeper into the report, a wiretap was also discovered of Arizona head coach Sean Miller allegedly discussing a $100,000 payment to star prospect DeAndre Ayton to secure his commitment to the university.

College Basketball is a mess. With scandal after scandal, it has become increasingly obvious that there needs to be a great deal of reform to help avoid problems like this from happening again and it all comes down to one simple solution for not just college basketball, but collegiate athletics as a whole.

The NCAA needs to redefine their definition of amateurism.

On their website, the NCAA defines amateurism as the “bedrock principle” of college athletics and is “crucial to preserving an academic environment in which acquiring a quality education is the first priority”. By agreeing to participate in a collegiate sport, it is required that all athletes to be certified as amateurs or else they can not play.

The whole idea of amateurism is to make sure that the student-athlete is taking care of his or her responsibilities in the classroom. It allows them to focus on their education instead of any potential outside distractions. These distractions include signing an agent, having contact with professional teams, and accepting money from endorsers.

On the surface, this logic makes sense. People go to college to further their education by obtaining a degree; not to dribble a basketball or throw a football. However, this logic is thrown out the window when the NCAA, a non-profit organization, profits roughly a billion dollars every year and athletes receive no compensation for it.

The argument that student-athletes are paid in education fails to recognize that the NCAA is a requirement to achieve the goals of the top athletes. College is a pit stop for the NBA and NFL, which both have requirements that players must be a certain number of years out of high school. This is only a small portion of student-athletes, but these are the ones we hear about the most in regards to compensation.

Sure, going overseas is an option for players to be paid and not suffer being broke in college, but how many 18-year-olds do you know that would rather go to a foreign country and live by themselves than go to a college in the US? The NCAA is the best option for many student-athletes, and it knows it, so it continues to use student labor for profit.

Another argument against paying players is that it would change the landscape of the NCAA to include only the top sports for only a handful of schools that can afford to pay such players. If the NCAA paid players, it would have to pay not only men’s basketball and football, but also women’s lacrosse and men’s cross country. The idea that compensation would have to be equal throughout the entire NCAA, from Division I basketball to Division III rowing, is completely off the mark.

Not all people get paid the same, and whether you like it or not, that is not going to change with a possible NCAA pay-for-play system. Women’s hockey is not going to shell out the same amount of money that football will because they make significantly less revenue.

Even if the NCAA wants to avoid paying players salaries, they should allow their athletes to use their own likeness to make money. In August of 2017, University of Central Florida (UCF) kicker Donald De La Haye lost his scholarship because he refused to demonetize his YouTube channel. If De La Haye chose not to reference his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability, he keeps his scholarship and his channel. The question that the NCAA needs to answer is what is harmful about something simple like a YouTube channel? If anything, it brings publicity to UCF and college football while also allowing De La Haye to be more financially secure.

Notable athletes that have been investigated for receiving improper benefits include Cam Newton, Reggie Bush, Dez Bryant, and A.J. Green. Bush had to give us his 2005 Heisman Trophy where he rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns. The NCAA tries to erase memorable moments in college football history as a form of punishment to these athletes that have made them millions in revenue.      

Athletes still should not have contact with agents or professional teams, but a

player should be allowed to sign a simple autograph if their name is valuable. If they have put in the work necessary to have their signature worth a few hundred dollars, then they should be awarded for it. This does not hurt the quality of the game in anyway, and players can still support themselves while they are on campus.

The NCAA has been accumulating wealth at the expense of unpaid labor for far too long, and enabling more lenient amateur regulations would be a step in the right direction in solving that.