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Rethinking Amateurism And Notre Dame Football

Can an Olympic model of amateurism work for Notre Dame and the rest of the country?

Army Black Knights v. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Yesterday, we proudly announced Bill Connelly’s candidacy for the mythical position of College Football Commissioner. Bill put together a very thorough and detailed plan that outlined his vision for the sport and how he might be able to usher along some changes.

I am diving a bit deeper to see what changes might affect fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish the most.

One of the points that he and Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples thinks would help the sport, is if college football (and all of college sports) adopted the Olympic model of amateurism. Basically, it would allow student athletes to make money off of their own likeness, and be allowed to do things such as commercials for car dealerships. In their view, this would help alleviate the title 9 struggle that would come with paying players for play.

After years of this conversation, we shouldn’t still be leaning on the same arguments.It’s also common sense. An adult should be able to legally make money off of their own likeness and whatever else comes with that in the process, because there is an “indentured servant” kind of a feeling otherwise.

Here’s the 2000 pound gorilla, or elephant, or just some monkey holding a wrench while drinking a jar of bathtub brew... how would this impact recruiting?

Let’s not pretend that changing rules to make things fair- actually makes it fair for all. What’s to stop the well-funded and extremely motivated fans and alumni of programs such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ohio State Buckeyes, Texas Longhorns, and others from offering lucrative advertising deals to potential recruits? Even if the recruiting part would have some type of rule, how could they even go about enforcing it if the deal was a wink and a handshake during the recruiting process. Once the recruit gets on campus and is allowed to make money by advertising (and whatever), they wouldn’t be able to stop him?

Auburn v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So, recruiting could become an even bigger bidding war than it is now? For Notre Dame, a program that likes to try to keep the moral high ground, how far down the rabbit hole would they go? Notre Dame fans and alumni have no shortage of money or ways to that could pay these guys legally- but would they do so after decades and decades of being taught NOT to do so?

What happens to the entire college football landscape when the Oregon Ducks and Maryland Terrapins really can offer all these 17 and 18 year old kids shoe deals with Nike and Under Armour? Recruiting would become less and less about what the actual school and coaches can offer a recruit, and more about what the boosters can do for them.

Kind of like the old Southwest Conference.

Bill commented on this exact scenario:

But these are hurdles, not impediments.

The reflexive knock on the Olympic model is that the boosters at the wealthiest programs will pay so much that the top recruits will choose only the top teams; perhaps the defenders of the status quo don't look at very often. The top recruiters will remain the top recruiters, no matter the system. After years of this conversation, we shouldn’t still be leaning on the same arguments.

I’m just not sure I agree with all of that. I do agree that the “arguments” tend to be the same when approaching this discussion, but that in itself should be evidence enough that it is the most likely possibility.

Perhaps after a few years things would calm down a bit- but have you even watched college football over the past 10, 15, and 20 years? It’s a booming business, with huge amounts of money being thrown around from all sides to all sides- except the players. I don’t believe there would ever be a cool down, because what one program ends up lacking, the next one will write that check- and then some.

I do agree that the issue should be examined further and that possible safeguards, limits, and guidelines be put in place, but that’s because I’m more of a college football purist. I like my hypocrisy behind closed doors.


Should college sports move towards the Olympic model?

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  • 26%
    (102 votes)
  • 69%
    (274 votes)
  • 4%
    Anything to beat Austrian ski-jumping
    (16 votes)
392 votes total Vote Now