Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

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Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the governing body for college athletics. In recent years, the corrupt nature of this “non-profit” organization has begun to rear its ugly head. This hypocrisy is the center of Ben Strauss and Joe Nocera’s novel, Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA.   The NCAA was originally created as a way to protect athletes, but this protection has shifted to a flat out exploitation of their ‘amateurism’ status. There is outrage when it is discovered that these amateurs accept impermissible benefits or violate any absurd rules yet the organization itself is free to impose any sanctions they wish and profit off of the young athletes. Specifically, the authors examine the two money-making juggernauts in college sports: basketball and football. Strauss and Nocera provide a series of compelling case studies revealing the impure dealings of the organization and how they rule with an iron fist.

I was a women’s hockey player at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). Did I feel the athletic department or the NCAA was exploiting my talents for their own bottom line? No, never. But then again, my jerseys weren’t being sold on….

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Former Duke basketball standout and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has become one of the NCAA’s biggest critics.

They also weren’t being sold at the campus bookstore, and I wasn’t portrayed “anonymously” in EA Sports video games, oh and my games also weren’t attracting thousands and thousands of fans. Overall, it sure felt like the NCAA and the school itself was actually spending a lot more money on me than what I was actually worth. Textbooks, gear, apparel, tutors, advisors. Seemed like a great deal to me. Maybe this is how they are able to justify it- there are 480,000 student-athletes that compete across 24 sports at the Division I, II and III levels as part of the NCAA for a total of 19,000 teams. A much smaller percentage, approximately 90,000, of these athletes compete in the two sports focused on in this book and fore the most part the scandals tend to occur at DI level.

For every student that is deemed ineligible or wronged by the NCAA, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who reap the benefits of representing their schools. But does this make it fair? I don’t think so. The authors focus solely on basketball and football student-athletes in their novel, it would be interesting to read about both the plight and delight of athletes from other sports as well as a way to compare and contrast their treatment. Athletes from the aforementioned sports generate immense revenue for their universities – shouldn’t they be entitled to even a small piece of the billion dollar pie?  Economist Andy Schwarz details many of the excuses used to justify not paying college athletes. He then proceeds to debunk every single excuse. Schwarz’s work is discussed at length in the novel as well. The NCAA seemingly makes up things as it goes. Continually adding pages to the rulebook and creating investigations out of thin air are commonplace. Rules that are long outdated are in dire need updating – Title IX? (That’s another controversial discussion for another day)

The book’s title has some racial undertones because of the word “Indentured.” One of the more controversial points Strauss and Nocera make throughout the book is the racial stereotypes that the NCAA consistently draws upon when pursuing investigations. There are quite a few people getting filthy, filthy rich at the expense of college athletes. These people ironically seem to be older white men profiting off of  young, typically African-American men. I think it would be unfair to cast a net of racism over the organization, while there are definitely instances and arguments to be made, I think to call the organization’s practices racist could potentially distract from the true issues at hand. Greed. Money. Control. These are the issues that should be focused on – exploiting ALL athletes (regardless of colour) for their work. The labour issues are not due to race and should not be framed entirely in that way.

It is obvious that the questions surrounding athlete exploitation in the NCAA have no easy answers. The system has flaws on so many levels it is difficult to even begin searching for a solution. The NCAA isn’t the only guilty party – I have seen firsthand how student-athletes abuse the system for their own personal gains, and also how schools break the rules for the athletes thus increasing their susceptibility to punishment. In fact, there are so many guilty parties in the tangled web of corruption and exploitation it is impossible to cast sole blame.  Strauss and Nocera don’t provide any concrete fixes but they do continue the conversation. Continually stirring the NCAA pot is what must be done in order to one-day overhaul the system as a whole.

Strauss and Nocera take a firm stance in their critiques of the organization. What they don’t do is mention the seemingly rare instances in which the NCAA shows compassion and bends its rules in favour of the athletes. It would be interesting to see how many instances like this exist, however, it seems the bad will forever outweigh the good. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to get a glimpse into the America’s biggest cartel, the NCAA.

NCAA money ball.jpg                                       2016-02-19-1455919371-9174151-51au6ha6hzl-_sx329_bo1204203200_



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$tudent-athletes, $pectacle & $ustainability: Case study of the NCAA

It is increasingly apprarent that the sustainability of university athletics in the United States is a problem. According to this article, US colleges are spending 7 times more on athletics than academics. This is compounded by questions of how to fund the NCAA as spectacle, most specifically in terms of football and men’s basketball.


Compounding the economic issue is a philosophical one about the role of athletics within broader mission of higher education, especially if it is a case of:


Finally, the issues facing the future of the NCAA are relevant to Canadian education institutions and athletes, as we often compare approaches in a variety of inititatives.



Should NCAA athletes be paid to play?

With the NCAA being a multimillion dollar industry and coaches being well-paid, in addition state-of-the-art buildings and equipment found on many campuses, we were wondering: Shouldn’t the athletes make a bit of money from these revenue streams?


Prior to beginning our research, we felt that the student-athletes should be paid.  We felt that they should be paid for many different reasons. Many coaches are well compensated,  For example, the top 3 college NCAA football coaches make over 5 million a year, with number 1 (Nick Saban, Alabama) making 7.3 million a year (TheRichest, 2013).  This suggests the players should also be paid due to the fact that their skill is what brings thousands of fans out to watch every single week, not only the coaches.

The NCAA’s March Madness tournament pulls in more money in ad revenue than the Super bowl and the World Series combined (Kantar Media, 2014).  In 2013, it cost 1.42 million dollars to purchase 30 second commercial airtime during the final of March Madness. That is an insane amount of money!

Although we believe that the athletes should be paid, but we understand the complexities of the issue.  The students are receiving educations in most cases, they also get the status of being a college athlete which makes them role models.  Many of these athletes  get the chance to play in the best facilities in front of thousands of screaming fans every single week.  We also understand that determining how much each player would make and which sports would get the most money could cause issues amongst different conferences, schools and teams within a school.

So what do you think, should college and university athletes be paid? And if so, how should we go about paying them?

Andrew Hughes, Laura Dougay and Katelyn Peters


Bhandari, N. (2013, November 22). Top 10 Highest-Paid Coaches in College Football. Retrieved March 29, 2015, from

March Madness Generated $1.15 Billion in Ad Revenue in 2013. (2014, March 10). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from

Other related video:


Amateurism vs. Professionalism in University Athletics: A case study of Northwestern University

A group of football players from Northwestern University, based in Evanston, Illinois, are lobbying for the right to form a labour union.  The players took their case to the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) who ruled on March 26th that football players receiving scholarships to attend Northwestern University are to be considered employees of the educational institution.   Peter Ohr, regional director for the NLRB in Chicago, was the one who made the official ruling.  The union still has not officially formed, the University has said that they plan on appealing the decision and there is also still the need for scholarship receiving players to vote on the matter.  If the vote passes the group of players will forthwith be represented by the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA).


The players’ desire to unionize stems from the fact that top-level college athletics is a multi-billion dollar industry and the players are not receiving their fair share of the profits.  One former players claims that players dedicate 40-50 hours a week to training, practicing and playing.  This substantial time commitment limits the players’ ability to allocate enough time to their studies.  One player was quoted as saying that the amount of time that football took up kept him from applying to pre-med school.  The players would like to create a trust fund which would help pay for students to finish their degrees after their sports careers and to help fund larger scholarships.  Another argument from the players is that they sacrifice their bodies for the sake of the team.  Football is a sport in which the participants are susceptible to serious injuries.  These injuries will always have short-term effects but sometimes they can cause long-term problems for athletes; e.g. improper brain functioning as a result of concussions.  The trust fund would also help current and former players with sports-related medical fees.


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