Amateurism: Paying College Athletes for Their Work


The issue of college student-athletes being paid has been widely debated due to the range of different opinions surrounding it. However, in this paper, the argument that student-athletes should be paid for playing collegiate sports will be presented, despite the existence of current rules established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The key objective of the paper is to explain the set rules on amateurism defined by NCAA, offer examples of their violations and consequences, as well as discuss court case rulings, which may suggest how the regulations should be changed to benefit athletes.

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NCAA (2019) is an organization that is responsible for ensuring the long-term success of college and university athletes. The Association represents the interests of over fifty-two thousand players at over a thousand high education institutions, and is also affiliated with forty sports organizations (NCAA, 2019). In order to ensure the success and well-being of its athletes, the NCAA proposes relevant policies and rules linked to college sports.

The ultimate decision on rule adoption depends on members – anything from recruiting to compliance for both academics and championship. Fair competition is highly encouraged within the Association while the main opinion regarding payments is that athletes who play for their colleges should be paid for their participation in sports. Apart from this, the NCAA requires that those students who want to participate in college-level sports should be recruited as amateurs and remain as such during college.

Amateurism Violations

Over a period of time, there were some players who violated the rules on amateurism. For instance, Reggie Bush, who is known for being one of the best USC Trojans of all time, made some mistakes when studying at the University of Southern California. He received “cash, a car and a house from a marketing firm, will with the implication that after finishing at Southern Cal, Bush would provide a return on this investment, signing with the firm,” as reported by Sharp (2010) for SB Nation (para. 17). Bush was inevitably charged for violating the rule on amateurism by NCAA, which did not accept the fact that the athlete used his talent to help his family, and the decision caused some controversy among the public.

Another case of amateurism violation concerns Dwight Dasher, a former player for Middle Tennessee, who was suspended in 2010 for accepting a loan of $1,500 (“Middle Tennessee QB Dasher is suspended for accepting loan,” 2010). Similar to the situation that occurred with Bush, the decision of NCAA to suspend the player from participating caused some debates. For instance, the athlete’s teammates and coaches rallied behind him as the acceptance of the loan was not the worst thing that he could have done. However, since the loan was given to Dasher solely because he was an athlete, concerns regarding the following of NCAA rules are essential to take into account.

Non-players can also be charged with amateurism violations as seen from the example of two former Adidas workers and a sports-agent-to-be who were accused of fraud. The three were found guilty of funneling money to the relatives of college basketball players in return for their potential commitment to Adidas-sponsored teams (Tracy, 2018). The men faced the possibility of prison time; however, the main issue lied in whether the verdicts could potentially influence business matters in college basketball.

In cases of college athletes being suspended for their violations of NCAA rules, entire teams are suffering. For example, a winning streak of a team can come to an end when a star player is suspended for amateurism. Also, a collegiate program given to a team may be put under investigation after one of the team members is found guilty of an NCAA violation. This means that the problem of amateurism is not one-sided as teams have the responsibility in front of their teammates to withstand the accusations.

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Challenges of Amateurism

There are some challenges associated with amateurism and responding to the violations of NCAA rules. When players are accused of any breaches of the regulations, players have to fight back and take their cases to court. In many instances, the NCAA has to defend its rules in lower court, which deemed amateurism as anti-competitive and such that violates anti-trust laws (de Vogue, 2016). According to the Association, any changes in the rules “would lead to pay-for-play, fundamentally damaging college sports and harming academic integration of athletes” (Russo, 2018, para. 5). Despite this opinion, amateurism is challenging as after the lower court’s rulings, the Supreme Court had the same conclusion, offering little room for consideration.

Compensation of Student-Athletes

Regardless of NCAA’s opinion that amateurism, it is argued that student-athletes should receive payment for playing, and there are several reasons for this. First, the industry of college sports generates the annual revenue of eleven billion US dollars, with fifty colleges reporting annual revenues of fifty million dollars and ten reporting more than one hundred million (Edelman, 2014). Despite such revenues, the NCAA forbids the sharing of financial gains with players and ensures a great wealth of coaches and athletic directors while sustaining poverty among players who put their labor into games. The level of NCAA’s unfairness is high, which is why the public should given the decision.

The most successful college coaches get paid between four and nine million US dollars per year (excluding outside fees), which makes them the highest-paid employees of the state (Abdul-Jabbar, 2018). Such extreme financial wealth points to the possibility of paying athletes for their job and altering NCAA rules that prohibit it. In contrast to the high-paid coaches, some student-athletes often cannot afford to pay for their food. Yet, they have to be adequately nourished to play sports every day. Those athletes who under-eat have higher chances of getting injured in the field or get exhausted from training. Furthermore, student-athletes are required to pay the same amount of time and energy to sports as a worker to a full-time job, which reinforces the need to compensate them for their time and energy.


The overview of information on amateurism points to the fact that there are many reasons why student-athletes should be compensated for their work. College sports games generate millions in revenue, allowing only top-level stakeholders to earn money. Even though college athletes dedicate their time and energy to sports, they struggle with affording a living without getting a job that would pay their bills. Because of this issue, it is argued that NCAA should reevaluate its rules on amateurism and allow the court of public opinion to decide whether it is fair to allow college athletes to earn money for their work.


Abdul-Jabbar, K. (2018). It’s time to pay the tab for America’s college athletes. The Guardian. Web.

de Vogue, A. (2016). Supreme Court lets stand ruling that says NCAA violates anti-trust laws. CNN Politics. Web.

Edelman, M. (2014). The case for paying college athletes. US News. Web.

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Middle Tennessee QB Dasher is suspended for accepting loan. (2010). St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Web.

NCAA. (2019). What is the NCAA? Web.

Russo, R. (2018). NCAA goes back to court, defending its amateurism rules. Chicago Tribute. Web.

Sharp, A. (2010). Reggie Bush scandal shows the NCAA should give itself the death penalty. SB Nation. Web.

Tracy, M. (2018). Three found guilty in NCAA basketball recruiting scheme. The New York Times. Web.

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"Amateurism: Paying College Athletes for Their Work." StudyCorgi, 12 June 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Amateurism: Paying College Athletes for Their Work." June 12, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Amateurism: Paying College Athletes for Their Work." June 12, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Amateurism: Paying College Athletes for Their Work'. 12 June.

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