Posted: March 18th, 2023
In “Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Allen Sack argues that colleges and universities are exploiting their athletes but that they should still not get paid. A professor at the University of New Haven and a former college football player for Notre Dame, Sack has also written a book on the subject called Counterfeit Amateurism: An Athlete’s Journey Through the Sixties to the Age of Academic Capitalism. The phrase “counterfeit amateurism” is a phrase Sack uses to describe the progression of college sports from a purely amateur athletic scenario to a big business. Yet athletes are rarely receiving the full benefits of their success. Sack would prefer to see a return to true amateur college sports devoid of the big media attention garnered today, but acknowledges that the current trend is towards the “sports entertainment empire,” (Sack 2).
Paying athletes is unnecessary and would not necessarily help them achieve their academic goals, notes Sack. Athletes are also “already essentially paid to play” because they receive scholarships (Sack 2). According to the author, athletes should instead receive medical benefits, workers’ compensation, and, most controversially, “the right to engage in the same kinds of entrepreneurial ventures that are the stock and trade of celebrity coaches,” (Sack 2). By this, Sack suggests that athletes in college should be allowed to hire agents that can plan their careers, endorse products or become celebrity spokesmen, get paid for speaking engagements, and retrieve revenues from any college-based merchandise or publications that includes their image.
The purpose of Sack’s argument is to inspire self-reflection on the part of NCAA stakeholders. A former college athlete with a national championship team, Sack remains pro-sports and values the contributions of athletes to their schools. Sack does not argue that college sports is harmful in general, or that athletes are not benefitting by receiving an education. The subtitle of Sack’s article is “Go all amateur, or give them pro-benefits,” which sums up his argument. Sack urges the NCAA to consider the rights of their athletes and the implications of allowing their athletes to receive forms of compensation that would not directly interfere with their education or their ability to play sports as true amateurs. Sack does note that he would prefer true amateurism.
Sack’s article appears in print and online versions of The Christian Science Monitor and not a sports-focused publication. Audiences will generally consist of curious readers interested in issues related to social justice, as well as fans of college sports. Backgrounds of audience readers will vary, but most will be American. For this reason, the article is brief and written in plain language without jargon. The audience may already have strong beliefs about the issue, or may be open-minded. Because Sacks’s argument is balanced, nuanced, and complex, many readers will be able to relate. He is not arguing against compensation. Quite the contrary, Sacks argues that athletes do deserve better treatment and financial compensation, even if that compensation does not come directly from playing or from the NCAA. Most schools could not afford to pay their athletes, anyway, notes Sack.
The article appears, as Sack points out, when the NCAA basketball tournament was approaching and conversations like these come to the fore. Sack establishes his credentials as an ardent supporter of college sports, a former participator in college sports, and someone who remains involved in academia as well as athletics. The author also points out that the NCAA has been committed to the ethics of college athleticism, hinging on amateurism, since its founding in 1905. Paying athletes is not only unnecessary; it would dismantle the entire NCAA philosophy and call into question the meaning and integrity of college sports.
Sack, Allen. “Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Christian Science Monitor. 7 march, 2008. Retrieved online: http://www.newhaven.edu/20719.pdf
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