Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Harry Hirsch

Committee Member(s)

Eve Sandberg, Chair
Michael Parkin
Michael Traugott


NCAA, Amateurism, College sports, Professional sports, National Labor Relations Act, Sherman Anti Trust Act, College athletics, Reform, Pre-professional league, Mens college basketball, College football, History of amateurism, Intercollegiate athletics


The popularity of intercollegiate football and men's basketball at the NCAA Division I level has become comparable to that of professional sports during the period between 1960 and 2013. This league, which is comprised of unpaid, amateur athletes enrolled as students at the various member universities, has undergone a number of changes since its formation in 1906. Although holding amateurism to be its core governing principle, the Association has changed the definition of the term from its original construct in 19th century English institutions of higher learning. The first portion of this research concerns the history of the league's definition of this term, as well as the league's relation to its athletes. Further research regarding the legal definition of the NCAA as a national governing body, its relationship to member schools and individual athletes is explored to compliment the understanding of its historical evolution. Jurisprudence and legal precedent is analyzed to describe the amateur ideal in the conception of the American public. Financial figures as well as budgeting for the Association and the university athletic departments are used to compliment the understanding of rising revenue from television and sponsor contracts. General misappropriation of funds, along with corrupt internal investigation practices are identified in conjunction with incongruences in the stated definition of student-athletes and actual practices, strongly suggesting need for reform. Finally, the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the National Labor Relations Act are used to identify avenues of reform to rectify the treatment of athletes as primarily employees, instead of students, of their universities. An alternative format for this pre-professional league is laid out in the final portion of this thesis, realigning this major portion of American labor, entertainment, and education with proper conceptions of propriety and justice.