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Money in college sports - is it time to get rid of amateur status?




Reggie Bush playing for USC in 2005.
Reggie Bush playing for USC in 2005.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

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The rash of recent money scandals involving college football and basketball athletes and athletic programs is challenging the core ethics of the NCAA. That association clings adamantly to the amateur status of college athletic programs. The latest alleged scandal at the University of Miami is mind boggling in its scope. Nevin Shapiro, who is in jail on a Ponzi scheme charge has admitted to supplying prostitutes, money, jewelry, clothing, travel, and yacht rides (among other things) to Miami athletes and also claims that several Miami assistant coaches were aware of these gifts. This is just the most egregious example in a long line of scandals not he least of which is the violations involving USC running back Reggie Bush. The NCAA leadership is well aware of the problem and in the USC case the then chairman Paul Dee made an example of that school by it from bowl slapping it with a two year bowl ban and cancelling 30 scholarships. But if the alleged violations at Miami prove to be true what punishment would fit the crime? Is it time for the NCAA to accept the inevitable, that high profile college football and basketball are fueled by huge contributions of cash. Is it possible to maintain the amateur status of these programs against the tsunami of money and gifts targeted at high performing athletes? Is it hypocritical to demand that these athletes remain amateurs when their professional counterparts are making millions?

Guests:

Frank Deford, NPR commentator heard every Wednesday on Morning Edition, Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated and senior correspondent on the HBO show RealSports With Bryant Gumbel; his latest novel, Bliss, Remembered, is a love story set at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and in World War II

Shelley Smith, Reporter for ESPN Sports Center