Amateurism or Professional?

The last saturday in August could arguably be the most anticipated day of the year, Why? It’s the first weekend of the college football season. College football is a multi- billion dollar establishment that has 125 Division-1 football programs who compete every Saturday. These are some of the best athletes in the country putting their bodies on the line each and every week for the greater good of their team and the satisfaction of winning the game. This barbaric and violent sport is filled with collision that grasps the attention and excitement of die hard college football fans every weekend. These athletes put their bodies on the line and usually become public and national figures, where their faces seem to be everywhere. The universities sell their jerseys, put their names and faces on billboards and ticket stubs, but won’t allow their student athletes to receive compensation for their likeness. The university makes millions of dollars off their students athletes, but won’t share the wealth with the ones who bring in the wealth. If the athletes are being treated and exposed like a professional why aren’t they being paid like one?

In Eric Dunning’s “Dynamics of Modern Sports,” he gives a reason as to why athletes compete. Most will say because they want to be win and be champions, which is very true but there are three reasons that stood out from Dunning’s piece; he said money, fame & recognition, and opportunities. Dunning explains how the idea of professionalism emerged in the 19th century. He uses the example of how surgeons were not seen as doctors, they were low ranked because the competitiveness for the job was not that serious until the 19th century. Since the need for surgeons increased the competitiveness for the job increased also, so professional regulations needed to be established.  Dunning explains that professionalism is a trajectory, between competitiveness and seriousness. As competitiveness increases, seriousness increases, so as the competitive aspect emerges, the amateur ethos emerges. Similar to surgeons, college athletes are becoming professional because the high competition level, demand for entertainment, and the revenue they generate every weekend. College football is no longer an ametur sport like it was back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but they are still being defined and treated like they are.

The idea of college amateurism has been debated since the late 19th century. Charlie Mitchell, Heavyweight boxer (1886) said, “In fact I should like to hypothesize the amateur ethos was articulated as an ideology in opposition to the trend towards growing seriousness and that it received its most explicit and detailed formulation when, as part of the trend, the modern forms of professionalism sports began to emerge’’ (LaVaque-Manty). So, he supports Dunning’s idea that as the competitiveness and seriousness increase the professionalism aspect will then emerge. Athletes recognize this issue but the ones who control the money have not (the colleges).

College institutions need to adapt to the idea of Dunning’s philosophy and apply that to their student athletes. Division-1 competition is the highest caliber of competition the United States’ universities have to offer. The best athletes from around the world are all put on one team and are expected to compete and perform at a high level against the world’s best. College sports, especially college football attracts the national spotlight. Millions of people watch while thousands attend them and the universities are making a significant amount of money off of everyone. It is unjust for universities to be selfish and not share the wealth with their athletes who are becoming professionals.