Following the announcement of FBI indictments for under-the-table athlete payments, B. David Ridpath, President of The Drake Group, issued the following statement highly critical of the NCAA and its member institutions:
Although the latest scandal that has enveloped college sports is not surprising, it was stunning to see the federal government getting involved in policing college sports. Despite everything reported in the last week being only allegations, The Drake Group believes it is only right for the FBI to pursue any allegation concerning those who do not declare compensation for criminal tax evasion and to go after public companies that conceal payments to college athletes and avoid paying payroll and other taxes. Such action should include exposing those who conspire with
coaches or athletes to commit fraud by encouraging athletes to conceal income from their institutions and receive more government or institutional aid to which they are not entitled.
However, the media and the public are missing the larger point. The NCAA and its member institutions have virtually forced the commission of these crimes by imposing compensation restrictions on athletes under the guise of “amateur status.” Institutions of higher education have used this definition of “amateur” combined with rules that keep young athletes captive (such as onerous transfer restrictions) and the selfish motives of professional sports leagues that do not have to fund minor leagues in football and basketball to unreasonably limit the compensation
that can be earned by collegiate athletes under the rubric of “athletic scholarship.” “Amateur” is nothing more than an NCAA overly broad mechanism that allows multi-million-dollar coaches and extraordinarily well-compensated athletic directors to earn lavish salaries and perks while institutions of higher education receive tax deductible donations from exploiting the value of collegiate athletes they refuse to allow the same earning rights as other students.
The NCAA has the right and the obligation as an educational non-profit institution to limit institutional compensation of athletes to the cost of education. College sports should not be “pay for play” professional sports, but continuing to treat college athletes as employees and commodities for financial gain and entertainment instead of as students, makes it a very tough argument to continue to justify. In other words, there are simple changes for the association to make that positions the athlete as a student rather than an employee. The inability to separate the
two has largely driven this underground economy in college sports. While the NCAA also has the right to prohibit professional athletes from participating in college sports, it shouldn’t have the right to prohibit college athletes from working outside the university, contracting with an agent and using their names, images and likenesses for private gain as long as the athlete does not use of the name or affiliation with the institution. Athletes should be allowed to earn whatever the marketplace dictates from endorsements (including the use of shoes, gloves or other items of personal sports equipment), modeling, conducting a sports camp business or giving sports lessons to others as long as the athlete does not enter into a contract to play professional sports. It is also proper for the NCAA to insist that such work be conditioned on the athlete independently obtaining such employment, meaning that such work not be arranged by individuals engaged by the collegiate institution or representatives of the institution’s athletics interest for that purpose. It is also proper for the NCAA to insist on transparency in the athlete reporting such income and to require that it reflect marketplace value.
The NCAA should throw out its ingenuous use of “amateur” which really has not represented reality since the association’s beginnings in 1905, remove restrictions on agents and outside employment and treat athletes like other students. It is time for higher education to get back to its business of education by making sure athletic scholarships are guaranteed four-to-five-year grants for a college education rather than treating athletes as indentured servants so that others can get rich while denying college athletes basic rights afforded all other students.