College football has returned to the airwaves and with it the debate over paying student-athletes. Though the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) brought in nearly $1 billion dollars in revenue last year, the organization continues to resist compensating student-athletes because they argue it would undermine the ideals of amateurism. But “the term ‘student athlete’ is actually a fiction,” says Ellen Staurowsky, a sport management professor at Drexel University. “It was created to obscure the fact that the NCAA knew that it had created a pay-for-play system.”
Staurowsky argues that the NCAA’s construct of amateurism changes to fit the needs of the organization. “The NCAA has three different divisions and there are different definitions of amateurism for each one,” she says.
Public opinion seems to be shifting in favor of a pay-for-play system. A 2014 Reason-Rupe poll found that 64 percent of Americans think student-atheletes should receive money if a college or company sells gear containing their likeness or jersey number. And 50 percent of Americans said college basketball players should get some of the $700 million in television rights revenue from the NCAA March Madness tournament.