Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Commentary: Football game at Bristol is commercial-driven

The NCAA's Principle of Amateurism states that, "[S]tudent-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental, and social benefits to be derived. Student participation in intercollegiate athletics is an avocation, and student-athletes should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises."
Last week, the NCAA announced that Tennessee and Virginia Tech's football teams will be playing a game at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. The speedway sits at the intersection of the Tennessee and Virginia state lines and can seat up to 150,000 fans. While the former fits the formula for an impassioned crowd, it is the latter which the NCAA is banking on, literally and figuratively so.
A 150,000 fan attendance would shatter the record of 115,000.
Like the gimmick of playing basketball games aboard aircraft carriers, moving a football game to a motor speedway is more about spectacle and spectators than it is (at all) about the student-athletes.
Much akin to the player-safety issues raised by condensation-related concerns associated with playing basketball on a court constructed atop the deck of an afloat-aircraft carrier; the safety of the student-athlete player-participants in a motor speedway, impromptu infield-based football field seems a far - if not altogether forgotten - afterthought to the allure of shattering an attendance record.
The problem intrinsic to, and inferred in and by the attendance record-driven motives of the game - The NCAA, by pursuing and putting-on events of this nature is acting as the exact "commercial enterprise" from and against which it seeks to protect its student-athletes and preserve its Principle of Amateurism; exploiting and putting at risk the student-athletes its ideals and mission purport to protect.
The ideal of amateurism advances the idea of the importance of intrinsic versus extrinsic (monetary) rewards.
According to the NCAA, "as long as athletic endeavors are tied to academics, athletics are viewed as an avocation." Perhaps one factor in an amateurism "avocation" versus "occupation" test may be as simple as looking at where the games are played. Whereas, games played on-campus would maintain the status quo and be adjudged to be within the allowable - and legal - definitions, and as advancing the ideals, of amateurism as defined and advanced by the NCAA. However, and insofar as, games played off-campus, on neutral sites, and particularly those played in and on venues the purpose of which can be seen to be clearly commercially motivated, are played under a separate set of rules; whereby, e.g. student-athletes participating in such commercially-motivated contests could and would be financially compensated by the NCAA without losing their amateur status.
Two weeks ago, Duke's Coach K. met with NCAA President, Mark Emmert to discuss, among other things, the need to address and redefine the ideal and Principle of Amateurism in, and as advanced and enforced by the NCAA.
Building a temporary football field in the infield of a 150,000 seat motor speedway is, indisputably, the effort of, and motivated by a commercially-driven enterprise. Conference realignment, motivated by monies to be derived from football-driven revenues, that causes student-athletes to miss one, two and even three days per week of classes to travel to and from game-day competition(s) is another hallmark of a commercially-driven enterprise.
Participating in an intramural sport in college is an avocation. Playing NCAA Division I (FBS) sports is akin to an occupation; the student-athlete's education becoming the avocation secondary thereto. The NCAA's definition and Principle of Amateurism is outdated to the point of being antiquated; and, has become a false, empty pretext behind which the NCAA can no longer hide its commercially-driven, enterprising motives.
Playing a college football game on a temporary field in the infield of a 150,000 seat motor speedway flies in the face of the protective-based and anti-exploitative Principle of Amateurism that the NCAA purportedly advances. Nor does the answer to reformation that maintains the ideals and well-intended, protective principles that the NCAA was founded upon lie in the creation and separation of e.g. four super conferences, which would only serve to further corrode, corrupt, and take-away from the education-based goals of and for student-athletes; and/but, such brazen and exploitative behavior is of the sort, and for the likes of which, judges, both in formal courtroom settings, and the court of public opinion, like to enforce punitive, treble, and death penalty-styled damages of the sort hypocritically handed-down by the NCAA to those institutions and athletes that it adjudges to have broken or violated the spirit of those very bylaws and principles that it (the NCAA itself) scoffs at by playing football in a 150,000 seat speedway.