The Olympics Show Why College Sports Should Give Up on Amateurism

"The concern that college athletes need to be connected to the college mission through amateurism is a red herring," said Ellen Staurowsky, a professor in Drexel University's Department of Sport Management and co-author of the book College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA Amateur Myth."If that's the case, why don't we have this incredible uprising when school's aren't graduating 100 percent of their players? Nobody boycotts a stadium because the starting line didn't graduate. My sense is that the college product is connected to locale. Alums will still care about their team regardless of they are amateur or professional.

"It's pretty interesting to ask why the NCAA continues to hold onto this concept of amateurism despite the fact that the Olympics parted ways with it. All this handwringing about what would happen if we paid college athletes, the destruction of the system—similar fears were raised about women's entry into college sports, and in retrospect, they weren't borne out."

A half-century ago, former British runner and Member of Parliament Chris Chataway called for the end of Olympic amateurism, arguing that "to drop the pretense would do away with a lot of the subterfuge and a constant source of bickering between the competing nations." Finally, belatedly, the Games saw the wisdom in his words. Why can't college sports do the same? Last fall, I attended a Washington, D.C. meeting in which Emmert promised piecemeal, incremental NCAA reform —but no revolution. Afterward, I asked former University of Maryland basketball star Len Elmore if schools would be better off emulating the Olympics. Elmore furrowed his brow. He was eloquent. He was serious. He made the same old argument for an outdated system, a retreat into semantics and sentiment: if we pay amateur athletes, he said, they'll be professionals. And then they won't be amateurs. Exactly right.

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Patrick Hruby is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He has contributed to Sports on Earth, ESPN.com, and Washingtonian magazine, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. He is a former adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

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