Amateurism, in short, is whatever the NCAA says it is. More often than not, what the NCAA says has less to do with bedrock principle than whoever is currently shaming the association and its member schools on national television, or suing them in federal antitrust court.
While athletes wonder if it’s OK to eat a plate of gratis pasta, we watch our coaches, administrators, schools and conferences grow rich. Hell, even the football strength coach at the University of Iowa makes close to $600,000 per year. And since no one is allowed to simply pay us, we watch tens of millions of dollars flow into lavish athletic facilities that stand as pharaoh-shaming monuments of excess, complete with bowling alleys, barber shops, and arcades. Anything to lure the next class of coveted high school recruits, all of us who make the money spigot possible.
Oh, but the second we talk about trust fund payouts or maybe purchasing long-term health insurance for the injuries we suffer on the job, NCAA purists bleat about the slippery slope to corruption. We can’t be paid, because that would violate the academic mission of our schools.
About that mission: Two of my college coaches left my school for new gigs that paid multimillion dollar salaries annually. Until a couple of weeks ago, my final college coach was making nearly a million dollars per year, with a variety of salary escalators built-in—including a reported annual $80,000 bonus if the players hit their APR target.
In other words: he was paid for the work we did in the the classroom. Tell me again about corrupting the academy?