The New Amateurism

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NCAA president Mark Emmert has some interesting things to about the future of amateurism as seen by the NCAA in a recent interview with CBS Sports. Mr. Emmert suggested that it may be time to consider alloowing former pro athletes to return to college sports.

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Q: So give players representation. We already know that happens in baseball, although NCAA rules still restrict those players to an extent.Emmert: I think that’s what I’m talking about. … I’m more than happy to have us all consider what should the model look like in relationship between us and professional sports leagues. OK, if you go play a year in the D-League, does that mean you never, ever come back to college to play? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something we need to think about.

Q: So if a player gets drafted and goes to the D-League, you’d be OK with the player returning to play in college?

Emmert: I’m open to consider that. But again, that’s me and not the members. I’m sure coaches would have their concerns about that and I understand why. You wouldn’t want it to be a revolving door that one year I’m here, the next year I’m in the D-League. You’d have to structure it.

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NCAA observer John Infante expresses his astonishment with the comments:

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To allow D-League players to return would mean a major rethinking of other amateurism rules. Having an agent would have to be allowed in some form, as would accepting endorsement money. The odds that those changes would not extend to other sports, especially in the current legal and political climate, seem very low.But even more fundamentally, this idea represents a major rethinking of the philosophy of amateurism. Currently, amateurism is like a delicate object that each student-athlete has. Some things the student-athlete or others do damage the object. In some cases the damage is minor, repairs can be made, and the object is fine (i.e. reinstatement). Other times, the object is damaged beyond repair (i.e. permanent ineligibility).

What Emmert is proposing changes amateurism to a simple state an athlete might be in or not and one they could potentially switch back and forth between. College basketball players might still be amateur athletes, but only for the moment. Whether they were amateurs before or whether they will be amateurs continuously throughout their college career is of little or no concern.