Student Athletes' Appraisals of the NCAA Amateurism Policies Governing College Sports

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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College sports
Division 1
intercollegiate athletics
Higher Education Administration
Higher Education and Teaching
Sports Management
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Williams, Collin D

The amateurism principle governing college sports prohibits student-athletes from receiving compensation beyond tuition, room, and board, despite them garnering publicity, bolstering school pride, providing entertainment, and generating billions of dollars in revenue for the Division I institutions they attend (Sylwester & Witosky, 2004). Purportedly a measure to protect players from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises (NCAA, 2013a), the legitimacy of this claim has been called into question in recent years, as former college athletes have gone public about their basic needs not being met. From hungry nights with no food and inadequate insurance for sport-related injuries to comparatively lower graduation rates and “full” athletic scholarships that do not cover the cost of attending college, the concerns of college athletes have been captured in the press and media. Despite this, their voices have gone practically unheard in the published higher education research on student-athletes (Van Rheenen, 2012). This dissertation employed qualitative research methods to examine student- athletes’ appraisals of NCAA amateurism policies. Specifically, this phenomenological study used individual and group interviews with 40 college football players at 28 institutions across each of the power five conferences (PFCs) to answer the primary research question: How do student-athletes on revenue-generating athletic teams (hereinafter referred to as revenue-generating athletes) experience college and the amateurism policies governing college sports? Other research questions guiding this study include: (1) What do revenue-generating athletes perceive to be the costs and benefits of having participated in intercollegiate athletics? (2) How do revenue- generating athletes juxtapose the NCAA’s amateurism rhetoric with their own educational and professional expectations and experiences? (3) What are revenue- generating athletes’ appraisals of amateurism policies governing college sports? Criterion sampling methods were used in this study. The sample comprised of seniors on football teams in one of the power five conferences—The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Big Ten Conference (B1G), the Big 12 Conference (Big 12), the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12), and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Findings juxtaposed amateurism and other NCAA policy rhetoric with participants’ educational and professional expectations and experiences.

Shaun R. Harper
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