I’ve written extensively over the years about college athletics and there is not really much to add to the narrative, which, given all the mistakes in strategy to control the greed and perverse incentives in college sports over the past couple of decades, has played out pretty much as I expected–the slow death of amateurism and the resulting demise of its governance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The new rulings, court decisions, and legislation on name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation is simply a final straw. As I look back, my essay of August 2001, almost 20 years ago, “The Student-Athlete Myth”, covers most of the salient points. An excerpt:
“If you care at all about college athletics or its relationship to the mission of higher education, I urge you to read the Report of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released in June. In its recent report (a follow up to a 1991 report), the Commission finds that, despite considerable progress with its previously recommended reforms, ‘…the problems of big-time college sports have grown rather than diminished. The most glaring elements of the problems outlined–academic transgressions, a financial arms race, and commercialization–are all evidence of the widening chasm between higher educations’ ideals and big-time college sports.’ It recommends a new ‘one plus three’ model–a Council of Presidents directed toward an agenda of academic reform, de-escalation of the athletic arms race, and de-emphasis of the commercialization of intercollegiate athletics. In short, the goal should be ‘the reintegration of college sports into the moral and institutional culture of the university’.
At the major college level, we are, in effect, complicit in a lie–the myth of the student athlete–and we have become totally beholden to, and corrupted by, the professional sports leagues, particularly the NFL and NBA, in the management of our major men’s athletic programs……the trustees and alumni of our major universities are the only sources of leadership that can reverse the trends, which I believe we must do before the integrity of the mission of higher education is permanently undermined.”
So much for that. The rest is history.