Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, is testifying today in an NCAA trial in which the association is being sued over using athletes’ images and names (such as jerseys and in video games) that only benefit the university. Not the player.
What is truly under trial is the idea of amateur status in the NCAA, with proposals that money (payment, percentage of revenue, etc.) be set aside for the athlete to use after graduation. Proposals aside, the concept of a student-athlete who receives no monetary benefit other than room, board and education is being scruitinized.
There has been a shift in thinking over amateurism in the last few years, it seems. Twenty years ago, I think a majority of people would find the notion of amateurism as sacred. Not any more. We’ve seen professionals enter the most vaulted of amateur events, the Olympics, under the idea of the truly best facing the truly best.
And the Olympics didn’t implode.
We’ve also entered an era when universities are profiting off the images and names of supposed amateur athletes, a notion that seems dishonest over what most of us believe is really true.
Maybe it is time to move forward and not hold amateurism as such as sacred creed. The old man in me wants to keep it, but I do think the brand of the NCAA as an organization may be eroding, being seen as corrupt and exploiting its stars.
With that said, does anybody really care? I mean, do fans of the University of Texas football team really care whether their players are true amateurs or not? Will the fans of the Crimson Tide stop going if changes are made? I think not.
There is something, of course, in doing the right thing. The NCAA thinks the right thing is to keep up (the façade of) amateurism. The athletes think the right thing to do is to stop being hypocritical.
I admit I’m torn, but I’m not impassioned about the issue. As a brand strategist, I know that people care about what affects them personally. It’s not a flaw. It’s simply about being human. If the amateur or not debate is solved (and I think the NCAA is in a bad position), I don’t think those who are not directly affected (the fans) will care.
It’s human nature.