Dick Harmon: College amateurism outdated like Olympics?

Published: Friday, July 27 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

According to Olympic historian Bill Mallon, "Amateurism really started when the people who were rowing boats on the Thames for a living started beating all the rich British aristocrats. That wasn't right. So they started a concept of amateurism that didn't exist in ancient Greece, extending it more and more to the notion of being a gentleman, someone who didn't work for a living and only did sport as a hobby."

This idea was copied by Harvard, Yale and other American schools, which gave birth to college sports. Some historians say college sports and then the NCAA had its roots in this idea which had less to do with lofty purism of amateurism than it did with enforcing a social caste system.

No wonder, in the extreme, we have the father of former Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton allegedly shopping his son to colleges for $180,000.

BYU, Utah and Utah State wouldn't have to pay athletes; it wouldn't be a mandatory thing, if the NCAA let go of restrictions on athletes. It would be a matter of allowing them to be paid.

The argument against paying athletes is that education is somehow a high and lofty mission by universities and the athletes are part of the pomp and ceremony, Saturday's extra-curricular activities.

Ummmmm. Aren't we way past that with million-dollar TV contracts?

Professors get paid at universities. So do other students who have jobs as they study and get degrees. But it's almost comical how much the NCAA prohibits what a football or basketball player can do to benefit financially off his own talents.

I sat on press row this winter in the Marriott Center when Sacramento Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette sat in front of me. When a Nu Skin commercial came on the giant screen and showed a clip of him making a shot in a Cougar uniform, he turned to somebody and said, "How often do they play that?"

He had a good point.

For making that shot, for wearing that uniform, for making that exciting moment, Nu Skin paid BYU money for airing that commercial, but Jimmer didn't receive a dime.

There was a long line of folks who made Jimmer money before Jimmer could.

It's like that all over the country on campuses from Westwood to Coral Gables.

What we have with amateurism in college sports today is hypocrisy and a lot of corruption. The numbers would be surprising if the truth were known of how many athletes are already receiving under the table compensation in one way or another.

email: dharmon@desnews.com, TWITTER: Harmonwrites

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