Why Does The NCAA Exist?

The short quick origin story of the NCAA is that President Teddy Roosevelt liked football and wanted college kids to keep playing, but the game had no standard set of rules and players kept getting seriously injured.  So, he held two White House conferences on collegiate sports which led to the formation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States in 1906, which would be rechristened the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1910.

The NCAA began with the idea of protecting its student-athletes by organizing and standardizing the rules that governed collegiate sports.  That is why it was created, but what does it do now?  It still organizes and standardizes the rules that govern collegiate sports, but does it do so to protect the student athletes or to protect its own interests?

At times the NCAA seems to be more concerned with defending amateur athletics then it is with defending amateur athletes.  While most of their rules are bureaucratically baffling, their most odious and paternalistic are reserved for protecting the names, likenesses, and images of student-athletes from the capitalistic hordes in the name of amateurism.

“Don’t worry young student-athlete, we will protect you from those dirty agents and businessmen just out to make a quick buck.  As long as you are a student-athlete we will control your image so those people can’t use it to make money for themselves.  Of course, since we control your image we will use it to sign multi-million dollar television contracts and sell tickets to our tournaments.  Don’t worry we will only use your image in the context of your team and our tournament and because you are an amateur we will not sully you by paying for that usage.”

Now the NCAA has decided to lose its recruiting contact restrictions because they cannot figure out how to enforce these restrictions.  They have also decided to let football programs that can afford it, create a recruiting department.  They can’t recruit off-campus, but they will also have no coaching responsibilities, meaning they will be recruiting all day, every day.

I don’t see how either of these rules changes help the student-athlete at all.  That is my issue with the NCAA:  It doesn’t seem to do anything to really help the student-athletes anymore.  All their major rules and decisions lean towards helping bolster their conception of amateurism and the existence of their organization.

“…I was so busy trying to keep my job, I forgot to do my job.” – President Andrew Shepherd, The American President

 

When an organization gets old enough and big enough, it starts making decisions based on protecting the organization.  They seem to be so busy keeping their organization in power, they forget to use the organization’s power for its intended purpose.  The NCAA does not exist to run a huge basketball tournament every March or April.  It exists to protect the interests of students who want or need to use their athletic ability to get an education and to find a better life for themselves and their families.  Anything the NCAA does that does not protect the best interests of the student athletes is flatly wrong.  I am for any rule that protects amateurism as long as it also protects the amateur athlete.  It just seems that most of the rules governing amateurism in the NCAA rule book protect the NCAA more.

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