In "The Shame of College Sports," Taylor Branch argues that college athletes should be paid. Agree or disagree.
Whether big-time college athletes should be paid is the wrong question. Given the historical record, which shows that the NCAA well knew that it had established a pay-for-play system with the creation of the athletic scholarship, that question is moot. To entertain it is to validate the cloak of fictions as manifest in terms like "student-athlete" and "amateurism" that form the basis for the NCAA's defense of business and educational practices that should be abolished.
The real question is why the NCAA has been permitted for over 60 years to get away with denying the full measure of the contributions athletes make who serve as the central attraction in college sport spectacle.
At the core of every position taken by the NCAA regarding athlete compensation is its principle of amateurism. Despite the central role that amateurism plays as a foundational principle on which the college sport enterprise is built, the manual itself is silent on the question of what an amateur is.
If the principle of amateurism is so central to the beating heart of the NCAA and serves as a rationale to deny athletes recognition as workers along with the protections and benefits associated with that status, then why no definition of amateur?