There is plenty of skepticism about the recent NCAA decision to allow athletes to profit from their likenesses, but as I told the Crimson
, it's a step in the right direction. The objections are based on predictions of the ruin to be visited on intercollegiate athletics by any breach of the strictest interpretation of the amateur standard. Somehow the amateurism purists never worry about the student musician who performs in the orchestra and is paid for birthday-party gigs on weekends, nor the computer programming team members who are treated to a fancy meal while they are halfway around the world representing the University in championship competitions. Those activities, of course, have nothing comparable to the labor-market-controlling NCAA setting limits on students' off-campus lives.
To be sure, there are real opportunities for abuse and unfairness as the amateurism regulations are relaxed (not that excesses have been impossible under current rules). It all depends on the way the rules are written and interpreted. I expect that what will happen is that the NCAA, having controlled the market with an iron hand up to now by absurdly inflexible regulation, will be forced by outside authorities to go too far. Had it shown a bit more common sense earlier on, it would not have created the social and governmental pressure that will now decide what's best for universities to do. (Not the first time such a thing has happened in higher ed. Not even the first time in this issue of the Crimson
Be that as it may, this image explains my sympathy for the players on this change.
It's a photo of the 1998 US women's ice hockey team, which won gold at the Olympics. Except that a few players are missing, including Harvard star AJ Mleczko
. These players still had a year or two of intercollegiate competition ahead of them, but would have been disqualified if they turned pro -- where the standard for turning pro included allowing their images to be used in a commercial promotion like this one, even if they were not being paid. This is not just crazy; it's mean. I hope the rule change will mean that no such thing will happen to students in the future.
The same journalist has a second Crimson story
online, about the social isolation of athletes. Meal times are a major irritant on this, as they have been as long as I can remember. I have a win-win suggestion to attack this problem, one I have been advocating since the plan was announced to move Engineering to Allston: Serve dinner at the new Science and Engineering Complex, just steps from Soldiers Field. Athletes tend to rise and go to bed early, engineers tend to be night owls, so there is not much overlap of their circadian rhythms, but they have the dinner hour in common. It would be a great vehicle for social mixing, and would attract arts students
too, not to mention friends curious about life on the other side of the river. How about it?