The Economics of Amateurism and College Sports
Much of the controversy surrounding college sports and the NCAA centers on the role of amateurism in college sports. The Knight Commission, an independent organization, founded in 1989 in response to the “commercialization of college sports,” nicely summarized the case for amateurism in 2001.2 In its otherwise critical report on the state of college sports, it claimed, “At one time . . . [a]mateurism was a cherished ideal. In such a context, it made sense to regard athletics as an educational undertaking. Young people were taught values ranging from fitness, cooperation, teamwork, and perseverance to sportsmanship as moral endeavor.”3 Many of the restrictions that colleges routinely place upon themselves-and violate-stem from the tension created by trying to uphold the notion that studentathletes are students first and athletes second. The idealized image of the past, however, is an illusion.