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Is Amateurism the Only way?

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Matt Gutridge's picture
June 24, 2014 at 11:47am

Kyle Rowland's piece Delany Testimony Full of Holes was quite the conversation starter yesterday. At this time many people are in one of two camps on this topic:

NCAA, Keeping Their Options Open?

1) Keep the system how it is. The players are getting paid by getting a free education, room and board etc.

2) The players should get paid by the universities or at least get compensated through their likeness.

Below is the description of a third option.


Excerpts from a Todd Jones article written for The Columbus Dispatch on June 3 (Full Article). Option 3 (Bold is my commentary):

Dr. David Ridpath

The search for answers regarding the future of big-money college athletics is causing one critic to head overseas.

Dr. David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports administration at Ohio University, leaves today for Germany, where he’ll spend the next year studying the European sports system and how it differs from a college model unique to the U.S.  ...

I understand that most of us don't want to follow a European model, but Ridpath has some valid questions.

“Why do we have athletics attached to the educational system in America, specifically at colleges and universities?” said Ridpath, a former Ohio assistant wrestling coach. “The European club system is actually a great developmental system for their professional leagues and Olympics.

“With the inevitable changes that are coming to college athletics, is there another potential way to have developmental athletics in America that either complements some of the intercollegiate athletic system or takes it over completely?”

Show me the money.

The past decade has seen Ridpath rise among the ranks of critics of the NCAA, a tax-free nonprofit organization that reported a nearly $61 million surplus for its 2013 fiscal year. ...

College athletics is at a crossroads at a time when a contract to broadcast the new College Football Playoff reportedly is worth $7.3 billion over 12 years and an NCAA basketball tournament TV deal is worth $10.8 billion over 14 years.

How is it done overseas?

Such deals don’t exist in Europe, where athletic scholarships are rare and professional sports clubs, not universities, are viewed as the proper outlet for the talented athletes of college age.

“Higher education in the United States is the only (educational) system in the world that has assumed the responsibility of entertaining the public,” said Richard Davies, who has written books and taught classes about American sports history at the University of Nevada.

Davies, a Camden, Ohio, native, said that the American system sprang from the rise of college football in the late 1800s when “Europeans had their club sports already established outside the university.”

Why is our system this way?

College Football Circa the 1920s

With the American higher-education system in its infancy, commerce took quick root when huge crowds at football games caught the attention of school presidents.

“By 1900, the universities had taken over the sport,” Davies said. “It became a very important public-relations tool. It was the one way that universities could reach out to their alumni and get them to connect with the university after they had graduated, and, of course, to raise money through the alumni.”

The Roaring ’20s saw a national rise in the construction of huge college football stadiums such as Ohio Stadium, which opened on Ohio State’s campus in 1922.

Ridpath's final thought.

“My views have evolved,” Ridpath said. “I wasn’t going to consider anything else other than the complete academic model. Now I’m wide open to anything, as long as we’re not doing what we’re doing now.”

I'm not educated enough on this topic, but I'm afraid that I agree with Ridpath in that the current model for college athletics will not last. I don't see any major changes happening within the next ten years, but I do believe in 30 years we may not recognize how college athletics are operated.

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