The NCAA: Treatment of People > Money

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has become, in the past 35 years or more, an organization that is heavily criticized in their practices by media members and the very persons that they are supposed to serve, the student-athlete (S-A). It begins with the foundation of the organization itself. The foundational issues coincide with the NCAA’s rules, regulations and how those rules are enforced; the NCAA has been called upon many times to reform itself. Now so more than ever, the NCAA must create and enforce changes in the social dynamic that it has placed on itself. To many, the relationship between the NCAA, large academic institutions, and the minority student athletes that thrive in their sanctioned sports creates a master-slave dynamic that hinders the growth and development of the S-A. This dynamic is over-bearing and leaves S-A’s to go into their lives and post undergraduate careers not prepared to live successful lives without the dream of athletic pursuits.

It is racism and lack of opportunity that hinders these young men and women who give a commitment to an academic institution. It seems that the academic institutions first priority it is to athletic associations that are more not connected monetarily to the universities to which the student attends. Billy Hawkins Ph.D., the author of the book The New Plantation: The Internal Colonization of Black Student Athletes,who states, “The main interests of the NCAA and its member institutions regarding intercollegiate athletics are power and money.”

I propose to stop the unfair treatment of all student-athletes, the NCAA but enhance the scholarships it allots to include allowances to the students that compete for them. Proper marketing and education to those students who need to care for themselves, their families, and their futures is what leads the NCAA to into their archaic bag of tricks and hand down rulings to S-A’s who would otherwise not be under an investigative microscope. The NCAA has a great deal of reform to accomplish, but how it deals with its student-athletes is the initial task. To begin, we will discuss the history of the NCAA. Next, we will discuss two cases that assess why this is a problem: the 2010 Cam Newton Scandal, and the 2010 Ohio State scandal. Following that, we will discuss the social movement ideals of the proposed reform and how these messages are going to give to the public.

A Brief History of the NCAA

Athletics are the front porch of the university. It is not the most important room in the house, but it is the most visible.

Scott Barnes, Athletic Director Utah State University The New York Times, 5/30/09

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was originated in 1906 when then President Theodore Roosevelt was concerned about his son, Ted, and other collegiate athletes health via concussions, and threatened Congressional intervention if academic institutions couldn’t or wouldn’t figure the issues out themselves. In 1906, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was established as an outcome of meetings with Roosevelt, and the Presidents of Army, Navy, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Though college athletics had been a part of the secondary educational landscape since the mid- to late 1800s, there were no regulations for them. With its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, the NCAA and its current president Mark Emmert (2010-present) have had a legacy of ruling with a fist that leads to question marks, but leaving its imprint and its actual meaning of what’s important to them behind with the institution it has ruled on.

The NCAA ruling system is in place to control, regulate, organize and protect the combined integrities student-athlete and the academic institutions with athletics. The NCAA’s focus is to protect the shared interests of these groups, and to stop exploitation of the student-athlete. Its ruling body is broken up into committees and cabinets, further expanding into subs of these for different or special topics. In its ruling system, it can punish offending institutions for a myriad of reasons, ruled on by an investigative staff, and then to infraction committees that are referred to in media stories. The Committee on Infractions makes sanctions on the institutions and its athletic associations, and can ban anybody, from the coach, team, particular athlete, to entire athletic programs in some cases for reasons ranging from improper recruiting practices, to cheating, lying to officials of the NCAA, eligibility of student-athletes, or not reporting its own misdeeds. The sanctions also range from simple insignificant punishments to devastating, with the most serious sanction, referred to as “the death penalty”, where whole seasons are cancelled for athletic teams, and the institutions are barred from normal activity.

Problem Area and Resolutions

Exploitation of minorities in sports for monetary gain is an issue that occurred in sports discourse many times over, but not completely enforced. In specific cases over the past 5 years especially, where college athletes have been punished by the NCAA because of suspected monetary gain for themselves adds to the construction of the master-slave dynamic in collegiate athletics. A large percentage of the NCAA-sanctioned sports are predominately played by minorities, large mostly white male-ran institutions could be seen as accepting of different backgrounds. The large academic institutions and athletic associations are alienating and using minority student-athletes to win games and for national notoriety and huge monetary gain. Hawkins, in his study of the relationship between the black male student-athlete and colonized peoples calls for a “decolonization” of the master-slave relationship in collegiate athletics, and says the root of the problem area is:

The economic and political systems and the social and cultural settings at these institutions function in a manner that hinders the merging of Black student-athletes’ two identities; the ability to benefit from these institutions as students, and enjoy them as athlete. It has cost many Black student-athletes their chances of becoming better educated, obtaining a college degree, and thus, increasing their chances of social mobility (105).

The Knight Commission is the biggest agitator of the NCAA and NCAA reform. The Knight Commission desires four things in NCAA reform:

1. Stronger academic standards for athletes leading to improved graduation rates.

2. Presidential control and leadership over NCAA decisions and athletics conferences achieved through governance changes.

3. Increased campus engagement and accountability through the NCAA’s certification process.

4. Standards that require team accountability for academic performance by sanctioning teams with subpar retention and graduation rates

(from theknightcommission.org).

These reform calls are just to the state of the NCAA as it stood when the Commission began in 1989 and still apply today. The Knight Commission has enforced major reform in how college athletics are run most predominately in 1996 when the NCAA changed the governance of the athletic associations from the college athletic directors to the university presidents (a factor in formation of bowl subdivisions we know today). Nevertheless, it is still missing the major problem of minorities and the ignorance of their treatment in college athletics. The main issue, as I have referred to via Hawkins argument of the “colonization” of student-athletes and the “decolonization” that needs to take place.

The biggest factor to those who study the master-slave dynamic in collegiate athletics is the idea of compensation outside of their scholarship. While this may only drive the athlete to make more money, it could help the student-athlete from feeling overextended and wanting to go to desperate lengths to get necessities or things they desire: e.g. money for trips, food to eat, clothes, gas for their cars (if they have a car), school supplies, or to simply take someone they are interested in out on a date, et cetera. The role of the NCAA as watchdogs for bad behavior in these aspects, for instance as in the 2010 Ohio State football players who traded jerseys, autographs, and other memorabilia for money tattoos, and other things. While the NCAA suspended them for five games, they did so for the first five games of the 2011 season, not for the 2010 Sugar Bowl, where most large BCS football teams make most of their money due to the student-athletes talents and abilities, not just the recruiting prowess of the coaching staff.

The biggest opponents against reform in this effort may be the NCAA and the academic institutions themselves. While they might decide to share fault in this problem area, they have done little to change it. For example, in 2010 Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton was in the midst of a controversy that his father, while Newton was playing football for a junior college after leaving the University of Florida surrounded by controversy, was accused of trying to exchange his son’s eligibility to play football to Mississippi State University for large sums of money. While Auburn, who was in the middle of an undefeated and championship season, ruled that Newton may have been implicated in some wrong doing, the NCAA ruled in the opposite direction, clearing Newton’s name, but banning his father from games and athletic functions and buildings. Auburn went on to win the SEC Championship and the National Championship of college football. Similar to the Ohio State football player situation, the NCAA had a chance to set a precedent in regards to how they view minority student-athletes, and they proved that they see them as cash-generators.

While the “pay for play” sentiment is a sensitive subject, it leads to the fact that while student-athletes are punished for selling the jerseys they played in, the universities are able to sell and produce the same jersey in mass numbers and sell them for profit that goes to the university’s athletic associations with NCAA licensing on them. The imagery of a slave picking the cotton and not being able to wear it once it is spun and created into clothing is startling. The development of a small, but sufficient compensation package, perhaps based on academic performance and not on the field performance, could be beneficial, but could be just as controversial as the idea itself. The outside of the scholarship compensation package would be utilized as an educational tool to teach the athletes monetary skills and work-place fundamentals, but cause animosity amongst high performers in the team environment.

Moreover, the drive for many student-athletes to leave school early to pursue professional athletics leaves the student-athletes with no significant back-up plan should their athletic pursuits not develop fully at the next level. Another call to reform is to ensure before athletes leave school before their graduation date, that they pay the schools back the scholarship money they used while at the academic institution they chose to play their designated sport. This could lead to a better chance that they would stay in school and get the type of education that could support better futures for the minority student athlete. If not this, it should be proposed that the student-athlete have an unlimited time to finish their degrees, if they so choose, rather than immediately cutting ties with their university, as the NCAA so regulates.

Lastly, the biggest call to reform in Hawkins’ study is that more minorities should be involved in the hierarchy of college athletics. He states:

While the efforts of NCAA officials seek to diversify its leadership, one of the important needs of Black student-athletes (and other student-athletes in revenue generating sports) is to organize themselves to ensure that the efforts by the NCAA goes beyond the current superficial cosmetic changes. Black student athletes must look for the shift of economic and political power to shift to their hands as an organized group of leaders.

Where the NCAA needs to reform in regards to minority student-athletes is to show them that they are more than just a cash-generating machine. They need to show that they can have a lasting position in collegiate sports and sports in general other than just playing them for athletic associations, at the amateur, collegiate and professional levels of all sports. The social movement title NCAA: People > Money speaks to these changes as a social construct that takes away the master-slave dynamic and making minorities in sports feeling wanted in other aspects than just the playing field.


Social movements must be a visible force to be reckoned with, and show the world what we want the words to mean. The purpose of this mini-campaign will be to reach student-athletes past, present, and future to see what their realities, hopes, dreams and aspirations through the title “student-athlete” are; the campaign will be focused on the media, because sports on a fast 24/7 news cycle, we have to ensure that this movement stays relevant. The fans of college athletics, also, are important to this movement. This group in particular facilitates the need to have winning programs associated with their school, via donations to either the universities or the athletic associations themselves. Their role in this will not omitted; the fan buy the jerseys that replicate the players on the field that are propelled in our dynamic.

Most importantly, we want to get the attention of the NCAA, because the promise of reform depends on their willingness to see this as a real problem that only they can change. Therefore, with this NCAA reform movement, I propose three different ways in which we can call this issue to be heard in ways like never before:

1. Social Media Campaign: We take to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and to sports blogs where this is a hot topic, and share our feelings. Once we create a forum for discussion, we plan a summit where athletes, media members, and fans of collegiate sports can come together and create more ideas to aid the reform movement. Social media being a huge part of how we inform, entertain, and create news and create reform and movements in todays’ society, this tool would best reach students and student-athletes, and modern media persons who work in news and sports broadcasting. It would also quickly spread the word once people attach themselves to the proposed ideas.

2. Say It Loud by Asking: Polling the student-athletes as to what they find as major issues as it pertains to this topic is essential to aiding what we need to change. Discover and discuss what they would like to see in the future of the NCAA rulings and athletic associations via interviews, surveys, et cetera, and pool the data and develop rhetoric from there. This would provide a first- hand account of those who we are trying to help. This could get the student-athlete to open up in more detail and more intimately about their needs, desires, and reforms they would find beneficial to their present states and

3. The Minority Student-Athlete Summit: Hawkins suggests the creation of a minority student-athletic association specifically targeted to academic outreach to the minority student athlete. First, before this is began, a Minority Student Athlete Summit would be ideal in reaching student-athletes past and present, those students who found prominence in professional sports and what (if anything) has hindered them post-professional careers. This would lend multiple voices to the cause of minority involvement as it pertains to NCAA reform, and promote a civil discourse. Involved in the summit, besides the student-athletes and media members, but coaches, athletic directors, and members of the NCAA, primarily the NCAA president. The summit would be held before the academic school year begins.

Message Execution & Reactions

I began the social movement via my social media campaign. The first site I used was my sports blog, The Southern Fried Sports Girl (http://thesouthernfriedsportgirl.blogspot.com). I posted my initial project idea, the project prospectus on 30 March 2011 as “NCAA: TREATMENT OF PEOPLE > MONEY”. It listed the project idea, the purpose statement, what the social movement was about, and how to send me feedback for ideas and proposed reform. I received no comments and under five page views. On 16 April 2011, I posted “NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT: NCAA REFORM *NEED AND WANT FEEDBACK*” to the site. Included with this article are: the reform topics, the introduction to my paper, and the social movement ideals and future projects for the movement and how to contact me. The link to the post was “shared” on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, and then “shared” with numerous contacts on those sites. On Twitter, the link was “RE-TWEETED” and “shared” by contacts and as of 16 April 2011, the page view count is 10 with no comments.

Also added to The Southern Fried Sports Girl blog is the stand-alone page “SOCIAL MOVEMENT PAGE: NCAA REFORM”.


It is important to recognize the power of sports. It can create immense passion, love, hate, battles and devotion, and has propelled many outside of the athletic business structure to analyze it for its greatness and its faults. The master-slave dynamic that is the minority student-athlete and mostly white male-ran academic institutions is a long-suffering issue that effects the greatness of athletic pursuits. Through the statement of the problem area and the proposed ideas of the mini-campaigns, its effects, and the potential for the NCAA to reform, the recognition that the treatment of people is greater than money will be more than just a proposed idea.

Works Cited

Brand, Myles. “Academic-reform effort: Making the changes real.” NCAA News 44.20 (2007): 4-10. SPORT Discus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Cooper, Coyte G., Andrea Eagleman, and Pamela C. Laucella. “NCAA March Madness: An Investigation of Gender Coverage in USA Today During the NCAA Basketball Tournaments.” Journal of Intercollegiate Sports 2.2 (2009): 299-311. SPORT Discus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Hawkins, Billy Ph.D. The New Plantation: The Internal Colonization of Black Student Athletes. Winterville, GA 2000.

Park, S. Roger, Nathan Tomasini, and Jr., Edgar W. Shields. “Perceived Opportunities and Barriers to Employment in the Football Coaching Profession Differences between NCAA Division I-A African-American and Caucasian Football Student-Athletes.” International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences 22.1 (2010): 33-58. SPORT Discus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Miller, Richard K., and Kelli Washington. “CHAPTER 41: NCAA SPORTS.” Sports Marketing (2011): 209-217. SPORT Discus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Ridpath, Bradley David. “Can the Faculty Reform Intercollegiate Athletics? A Past, Present, and Future Perspective.” Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics (2008): 11-25. SPORT Discus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2011.

Official NCAA Website. 2011. 12 April 2011 http://www.NCAA.org

The Knight Commission 2011. 12 April 2011 http://www.knightcommission.org


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