Curbing Sports Agent Misconduct in an Evolving Industry

In this industry, everyone is a sleazeball and a loyal friend –it just depends who you’re talking to.  Drew Rosenhaus, one of the most well-known sports agents of all-time, currently represents over 170 clients but claims to have personal relationships with each one.  While I find this hard to believe, I would not question anything Rosehaus does or says that seems out of the ordinary.  Following the 2011 NFL Lockout, Rosesnhaus needed only 30 days to ink 90 deals totaling $600 million and earn an anticipated income of $18 million.  However, it is not all fame and fortune for sports agents.


The explosion in professional sports contracts equates to a similar rise in sports agent earnings, which are a percentage of a player’s total salary.  Therefore, the seemingly-lucrative sports agent industry has become filled with all different kinds of people and all sorts of problems.  Some agents are attorneys, while others could be high school dropouts.  Either way, they are both fighting for the elite group of talent that comes out of the college and enters the pros.  The NCAA, though, has not made things easy for sports agents or its student-athletes.  Current Bylaws and legislation surrounding sports agents are weak, rarely enforced, and in need of serious change to reflect the changing industry of professional sports.

Million$ of Rea$on$ for the NCAA to Change Its Current Amateur Sports Organization Model : The 2010 UNC Football Scandal

Imagine being a highly-touted college football player and receiving offers of all-expenses paid trips to South Beach and keys to a Bentley?  You know it is illegal to accept the offers, but let’s think about what happens to you if you accept an offer like this from a sports agent or some other booster.  One scenario is that nobody finds out.  You dominate in your college career while living like a king, and then you go on to have a professional career and become a 22-year old millionaire.  This seems to be the perfect life, but someone will probably find out, right?  Well, even if they do, you will get kicked off the team and have your character questioned by NFL general managers.  Then, after sitting out for a year and just having to stay in shape for the NFL draft, these same GMs offer you your first payday worth more money than you could have ever dreamed about receiving.  Deciding whether or not to accept these gifts then seems to be the best ever “win-win” situation for the athlete—take the gifts!  If you do not believe this is reality, look no further than the 2010 University of North Carolina football agent scandal.

Bentley with Money

This is a case of three players receiving significant amounts of gifts from sports agents while still students at North Carolina in 2010.  Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, and Greg Little gave every Chapel Hill resident reasons to believe in the UNC football team, until they took the gifts, and consequently took away this same hope.  The three players were found to have accepted items including, but not limited to, rent payments, travel expenses, thousands of dollars in accessories, leased Bentleys, and all expenses paid trips to South Beach.  All three players were dismissed from the team, and the University of North Carolina took a huge hit to their reputation.  The school also suffered direct and measurable penalties with fines, vacated wins, and loss of future scholarships.  However, all three players are currently on NFL rosters—Austin signed for totals of 4 years and $3,675,000, Quinn for 4 years and $9,436,053, and Little for 4 years and $3,327,500 (Fox Sports).  Clearly, there is some sort of problem with the system if a player can take these gifts and be “punished” with angry college alumni and the loss of a year of college eligibility before becoming multi-millionaires.


While it seems the players made out just fine in the long run, it is clear that the NCAA needs to reevaluate its current business model when you consider that the situation experienced by these three student-athletes was not unique.  Under the current system, NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from accepting any compensation for their athletic prowess from people not associated with the student-athlete’s school.  This is because the NCAA maintains that the school athletic programs are “an integral part of the educational program” since student-athletes are a crucial part of the student body, therefore, creating an amateur model where the student-athletes can not be considered professionals.  Moreover, the NCAA is unlikely to ever forego their status as an amateur sports organization due to the tax breaks on the billions of dollars it generates through college athletics.  Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code provides a federal tax exemption for any entity that is created to exclusively operate for “religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition.”  Therefore, the NCAA just does not care if, in this case, the North Carolina football program takes a hit to their reputation and a few student-athletes are put in a difficult spot, so long as the NCAA officials and universities are financially better off.

In order to put this in perspective, it is important to realize the magnitude of the money that is on the table for all of the different characters who are involved.  The NCAA enjoys approximately $650 million in revenue per year just from television and marketing fees, championship games, and investment fees and services.  Individual universities and colleges also make significant amounts of money from their athletic programs.  In the 2010 season alone, seven college football teams generated net revenue over $38 million, with only 4 out of 124 programs losing money.  In addition, reports estimate that alumni donations increase significantly as a result of successful sports programs.  On average, each team that makes the NCAA basketball tournament field of 68 teams receives an increase in alumni donations of $450,000, but this number can be much greater.  After winning back-to-back NCAA basketball championships and a NCAA football championship from 2006-2007, the University of Florida’s athletic department received an increase in alumni donations of $38 million.  Schools can benefit from athletic success in other ways, as well.  Universities that win a national football championship have experienced, on average, an 8% increase in enrollment for the following school year, creating yet another reason for school administrators to deeply care about their sports programs.  This conversation would not be complete without considering the significant benefits received by NCAA officials and coaches, as well.  Myles Brand, former President of the NCAA, made $895,000 in his last year, which is even less than contracts worth over $1 million that are signed by several athletic directors and coaches throughout the country.  Last but not least, we have the players.  These young men and women are the ones responsible for the money made by the previously mentioned entities; however, they are not compensated for doing so.  While many of these student-athletes receive scholarships to attend their respective universities, this is barely a fraction of the money they are generating for the groups of people who are preaching the ideals of amateurism and getting rich at the expense of their student-athletes (Corgan).


After laying out these facts, many different schools of ethics, including deontology, virtue ethics, and consequentialism, can be used to better understand and evaluate the actions of the many different characters in the UNC football case.  The situation for the players and agents was very similar.  Both groups of people had a duty to follow the rules and codes prohibiting the exchange of benefits between agents and students-athletes that are outlined in the NCAA bylaws, as well as the Uniform Athletes Agents Act (UAAA) and the Sports Agents and Responsibility Trust Act (SPARTA) (Heitner).  From a deontological perspective, these agents and student-athletes would be expected to carry out their duties and follow the rules.  However, the student-athletes, especially those from a disadvantaged childhood, can hardly be blamed for being swayed by the gifts and attention that agents offer.  From a consequentialist perspective, these football players knew that their most severe “punishment” would be a suspension, without having any impact on the millions of dollars coming their way in professional contracts the following year.  Similar reasoning can help explain why agents, who are in a bloodbath competition to sign the most promising future professionals, continue to offer gifts to student-athletes.  With some star athletes earning lifetime salaries of over $300 million dollars, an agent’s 3% take of that is $9 million.  Therefore, agents could risk a few tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and penalties to sway a player to sign with him and earn him 500 million times his investment throughout the player’s career.  With millions of dollars in potential earnings up for grabs, a few years of suspension or fines from violating the UAAA or SPARTA, if they are even caught, is often times not enough to deter illegal behavior by the agents.  While virtue ethics considers the character and intentions of both the players and agents, it is hard to hold them at fault when you consider the potential consequences for their actions in the NCAA’s current system.

The NCAA shares a large portion of the blame for this and many other occurrences of illegal behavior between agents and student-athletes.  Essentially, the NCAA has created a shareholder-focused business model, where its executives and highest ranked administrators are the “owners” and main beneficiaries.  While holding collegiate sports to amateur status has allowed the National Collegiate Athletic Association to receive millions of dollars in tax exemptions, it has consciously ignored the most important stakeholders— the 170,000 Division I student-athletes who make this all possible (  The NCAA should be blamed for maintaining its outdated system in an age where media sponsorships and the millions of dollars generated from the commercialization of NCAA sports have taken the association to record-high profits.  It seems as if the NCAA, with a focus on profits, has taken a consequentialist approach to this situation.  Apparently, the association feels that the money that would be saved from reducing scandals and the ensuing backlash to universities compared to the money saved through tax exemptions under the current system would not be enough to warrant changes to the current amateur sports organization model.

This relationship between the NCAA and its student-athletes can be closely paralleled with that of large corporations and its employees.  Many of the largest companies have received increasing criticism in recent years for seeking increased profits at the expense of treating its employees unfairly and subjecting them to extremely low wages.  The same case needs to be made for the NCAA.  It only makes sense, as a number of recently-published scholars have proposed, to lift amateur status and allow student-athletes to either receive money through sponsorships or a basic revenue-sharing system.  However, this would cause the NCAA to give up their tax exempt status and millions of dollars in tax savings.  A virtue ethicist would look at the character and intentions of the NCAA and see a group of people who are motivated by profits and financial growth with far less concern for its student-athletes.


There is no reason why the NCAA would not be able to lift amateur status from its student-athletes and still thrive in a rapidly growing industry.  In an “About the NCAA” section on its website, the NCAA claims that it was “founded more than one hundred years ago as a way to protect student-athletes (and) the NCAA continues to implement that principle with increased emphasis on both athletics and academic excellence” (  In reality, the NCAA is doing the exact opposite of protecting its student-athletes, and therefore, it is time for a change.  While the agents and players in the 2010 UNC football scandal clearly broke the rules, the system was set-up for this to happen.

Student-athletes generate hundreds of millions of dollars while playing in college and some go on to earn hundreds of millions more as professionals in the years immediately following college.  If the NCAA wants to protect its student-athletes, it is time to take a look in the mirror and reconsider if “stealing” the profits from the student-athletes is the best way to protect them.  Many proposals have been made and rejected, but now is the time to get all hands on deck and devise a solution before any more scandals take place.  The UNC scandal was probably not even the only case of illegal behavior during that season, but it was the only one that got caught.  We live in a world where unethical behavior can sometimes be overlooked until it is noticed, and consequently, causes media uproar resulting in serious repercussions.  However, the NCAA has now been caught by many people for their unethical business practices without any repercussions or changes.  Maybe punishment is not necessary for the NCAA, but it certainly is time to stop punishing its student-athletes.

Paying NCAA Student-Athletes: A Simple Answer Amidst Complicated Rules

          The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) helps student-athletes across America compete in sports while earning four-year college degrees.  It unifies more than 450,000 young men and women whom are dispersed throughout more than 1,200 institutions, divided into 3 different divisions.[1]  Through the use of athletic scholarships, academic standards, drug testing, and many other components, the NCAA keeps a level playing field for competition.  When rules are broken, penalties are incurred.  When titles are won, rewards are received.  Since its formation in 1910, the NCAA has been an important and respected association across the country.  The one component of the NCAA that needs to be changed, however, is paying its student-athletes.  I will argue why they deserve to be paid, how to go about paying them, and the ethical philosophies that support it.

     Each year, a 68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in mid-March and culminates with the Final Four in one of the country’s biggest cities, leaving heartbreak and Cinderella stories at each of its smaller, regional sites along the way.  I was fortunate to experience the madness of this year’s Final Four in Atlanta firsthand, and if there’s one thing I learned from my experience, it’s that the NCAA makes a lot of money.  The ticket I received for the games was in Section 349 (as you can see below, in orange) of the Georgia Dome, and its face value was $95.  One of the people with me sold his unused ticket after the first game for $100.  Walking away, a man in a Michigan jacket sighed as he said, “I would have given you $200 for that!” A few hundred steps later, we both sold our ticket stubs for $20.  But the money doesn’t stop at ticket sales.  Two years ago, the NCAA agreed to a 13-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS/Turner Sports for coverage of the NCAA Tournament.[2]  March Madness lives up to its name.

My view

My view


^ I was right here

     So, where does all this money go?  Administrators, staff, event coordinators and the like all get paid.  Perhaps the biggest sources of payment, however, are the coaches.  University of Louisville’s Head Coach Rick Pitino’s bonus for winning the National Championship is $425,000; that’s roughly 70 percent of what Louisville’s university President James Ramsey is getting this year.[3]  Not to mention Pitino’s measly base salary of $5.7 million on top of that bonus.  Mark Yost, author of Var$ity Green, a behind the scenes look at culture and corruption in college athletics, further describes the massive amounts of money some college coaches are earning.  “Duke’s Coach K has a fifteen-year, $6 million sponsorship contract with Nike, (74)” he writes.  These types of deals aren’t uncommon in the big-time coaching world, either.  On average, only about 25 percent of their full compensation comes in the form of a salary.  “The rest comes from television and apparel contracts, endorsements, and other side deals,” says Yost. (115)

     How can one justify paying these coaches such large amounts of money and not the players?  The one place the money does not go, after all, is to the student-athletes that played a large part in creating it.  The easy explanation as to why this doesn’t happen would be because it’s not fair.  As ESPN writer and TV personality Michael Wilbon describes, “because so many athletic departments run at a deficit, it’s difficult to make the case that schools should pay regular salaries to athletes.”  With that being said, Wilbon doesn’t believe in paying college athletes evenly.  “I’m interested in seeing the people who produce the revenue share a teeny, tiny slice of it,” he says.  In most cases, this would include players on men’s basketball and football teams.  However, if other teams such as UCONN women’s basketball or Bucknell lacrosse are profitable, they deserve to be paid.  The teams that aren’t profitable don’t.  “You know what that’s called?” Wilbon asks.  “Capitalism.  Not everything is equal, not everything is fair.”

     Yost describes in his book, “The whole operation…[is] designed to hide the real business that the NCAA and their participating schools are engaged in: extortion” (159-160).  The simple truth is that these student-athletes provide their minds and bodies for the generation of billions of dollars.  “According to the most recent studies,” Yost points out, “the MRP (Marginal Revenue Product) of a draft-quality player ranges from about $263,000 for women’s basketball to $495,000 for college football and $1.4 million for men’s college basketball” (166).  Basically, that’s how much money a school makes off of these young men and women.  And they don’t get paid anything in return.

     Non-athlete college students aren’t restricted from earning money by an organization like the NCAA.  “If a music student goes out in the summer and earns 50 grand, who objects?” Wilbon asks.  “The student-musician is no less a college student because he struck a lucrative deal.”  As long as these deals are done with proper morals and intentions – which I will discuss later – what separates them?  Both required hard work and deserved to be rewarded.  However, the NCAA strictly prohibits student-athletes from being paid.  Below is an excerpt from its Summary of Regulations for Division I:

You are not eligible for participation in a sport if you have ever:

(1)       Taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport.

            [Bylaw 12.1.2]

(4)    Used your athletics skill for pay in any form in that sport.

            [Bylaws 12.1.2 and]

These rules need to be changed; here is how it can be done.

     Roughly two years ago, the NCAA and its new president, Mark Emmert, agreed on a new rule which allowed Division I schools to pay their student-athletes $2,000 stipends.  The purpose of these stipends were to increase the value of the scholarships, which some studies estimate falls on average about $3,500 short of the full cost of attending college annually.[4]  Essentially, the stipend was a form of payment to the players, but Emmert viewed it differently.  “If we move toward a pay-for-play model — if we were to convert our student athletes to employees of the university — that would be the death of college athletics,” he said.  Below I will propose how to make paying NCAA student-athletes work, hopefully without killing college athletics.

NCAA President Mark Emmert

     Firstly, the NCAA will have to stand firm when schools with little to no money complain that they can’t pay their players.  Those newly approved $2,000 stipends lasted less than a month back in late 2011, when more than 125 college athletic directors protested because they simply couldn’t afford them.  Weeks later, the NCAA decided to suspend the stipends all together, which only made the matter worse because some high school players had already signed papers to receive the money.  As Michael Wilbon mentioned earlier, the process won’t be fair for everyone.

     Secondly, players must be allowed to sell whatever they have earned while playing.  The NCAA currently forbids this type of action, and several cases of players selling jerseys in exchange for tattoos, for example, have resulted in multi-game suspensions.  Not only have they rightfully earned the right to sell these things that were given to them, but the selling process will also be a learning experience.  “If somebody is willing to give A.J. Green $750 or $1,000 or even $2,500 for his Georgia Bulldogs jersey, fine, good,” Wilbon argues.  “If one of his teammates, a tackle, can fetch only $50 for his jersey, then it’ll be a good marketing lesson for both of them.”

     Finally, players must only be paid for the work they put in at their respective sport.  Paying student-athletes money to sit around and skip practice is wrong.  In fact, once schools begin to pay players, I believe they will hold them to a higher standard than ever before.  Emmert, the President of the NCAA, argues that paying student-athletes will corrupt college sports.  “Why would you even want them to be students?” he asks.  “Why would you care about their graduation rates?”  I compare the situation to an NBA team that fines one of its players for missing practice.  Although the player missing that practice may hurt the team in the long run, a $25,000 fine means a less expense on that player’s salary in the short run.  Basically what I’m trying to say is that the NBA team would waste no time fining the player.  I believe that as a result, schools will hold their student-athletes to even higher standards because they are essentially taking money from the school.

     There are obviously many other components that would need to be added to my simplistic plan to make it work.  I do think, though, that through these three main components, a framework could begin to develop.  There would be nothing wrong with a high school recruit basing his/her college decision on which school paid them the most money.  It’s no different than basing your decision on which school has the nicer arena or business school.

     From a popular ethical philosopher’s point of view, paying revenue-generating student-athletes would be right and just because it means they did something worth being paid.  Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State and Utopia, conveniently uses Wilt Chamberlain as an example to explain his theory.  He describes a scenario in which, due to a clause in Chamberlain’s contract, fans that attend his games each drop a quarter in a jar on top of the normal cost of admission.  These fans enjoy watching his games and are happy to pay.  Nozick then asks, if Chamberlain receives $250,000 from one million fans putting a quarter into his jar over the course of the season, is this distribution just?  “Each of these persons chose to give the twenty-five cents of their money to Chamberlain,” he states (207). It’s no different for college student-athletes: if people pay to watch them play, they deserve some of the money.

Wilt the Stilt saying, “GIVE ME YOUR QUARTERS!” And also, “I just scored 100 points.”

     At a more organizational level, Peter French, author of Ethics and College Sports, utilizes the viewpoints of several different ethical theorists to assess the meaning of “amateurism” according to the NCAA.  For instance, citing authors Robert Butcher and Angela Schneider of Doping in Sport: Global Ethical Issues, “amateurism should be thought of as a motivation and not in terms of the absence or presence of monetary element” (22).  In other words, you can still be an amateur and get paid for what you do – contrary to what the NCAA states.  This is where the philosophy gets difficult, though, because now we are analyzing the motivation that these people have within themselves.  French agrees that these matters are complicated.  “How is a coach or an athletic director or the NCAA or anyone to determine with any degree of certitude that any particular college athletes is motivated to participate in a sport for the love of the game rather than for the external goods that participation may offer him or her?” (23)

     The complicated questions that not only French asks, but also countless others involved in the NCAA, don’t need complicated answers.  I’m not arguing on behalf of student-athletes that have stolen equipment from the locker room to sell, nor am I for the ones that excel in their sport but don’t go to class.  I’m arguing for the student-athletes that work hard in the classroom and at their sport to generate revenue for their school.  The NCAA doesn’t need any more complicated rules on top of what it already has.  The answer is simple: pay them.  They deserve it.

[1] “NCAA student-athlete participation hits 450,000”

[2] Michael Wilbon, ESPN. “College athletes deserve to be paid”

[3] Curtis Eichelberger, Bloomberg News.

[4] Joe Nocera, The New York Times. “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes”

Additional Works Cited

French, Peter.   Ethics and College Sports.  Roman and Littlefield, 2004.

Nozick, Robert.  Anarchy, State and Utopia.  Basic Books, 1974.

Summary of NCAA Regulations – NCAA Division I


Yost, Mark.  Var$ity Green.  Stanford University Press, 2010.

NCAA Tournament: Life of a Student-Athlete

Hey guys!  I’m sitting in my hotel room in Lexington, KY right now anxiously awaiting our game tomorrow vs. Butler.  The game is at 12:40 on TruTV if you want to check it out!

Anyway, I’ve found it very difficult to focus on schoolwork the past couple days due to the practice, travel, and just overall hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament.  I’ve been reading all of your blogs, thinking of cases, and researching guys like Bernie Madoff and Pete Rose.  This blog and class is a great example of why I love Bucknell so much – I’ve learned and experienced so many valuable things in my 4 years here.  I love the fact that student-athletes are expected to get ‘it’ 🙂 done in the classroom just as much as in their respective sport.  A lot of people in the media criticize the NCAA or specific universities for using the term ‘student-athletes’ too loosely (read this story about about Steven Kaspar on our team:, but at Bucknell, the term shines bright in my opinion.  And I love that!

Where am I trying to with this… Well, after not being able to find a topic/case for my paper after thinking about it the past couple days, I think I am going to write about the issue surrounding NCAA athletes and how they cannot be paid by their universities.  Today I was asked by a reporter if the academic rigor at Bucknell helps us as players on the court.  It was an interesting question and one that not too many people have asked me in the past.  It made me think, and I ultimately said that yes, it does help us on the court, but our experiences on the court help us as students, too!  I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs throughout my four years here at Bucknell — in the classroom, on the court, and MANY places in-between.

I get frustrated when people write off athletics as non-stimulating and not a ‘learning experience.’  I get equally as frustrated when I read of players at universities not going to class or not valuing their education.  I get even MORE frustrated when I hear of people who just do their homework all day or just play their sport all day.  There are many, many things to enjoy in life and while being dedicated in driven is important, so is balance! 

So in regards to my paper, I’m going to argue that student-athletes should be paid.  Not because they are ‘special’ or ‘privileged’.  Rather, because their job is just as important, and just as much as meaningful as a summer internship or working as a tutor.  If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine, that’s your opinion.  But I’ve learned so much from being an athlete and I think my career has helped me mature and develop to be the person I am today.

Alright, I’m off to bed.  ‘Ray Bucknell!!!

Individualist Sports Ethics

The issue of sports ethics to me personally arises in certain situations but is not as prevalent an issue as in other sports. I am a thrower on the track team here and the very nature of the sport limits the number of ethical dilemmas or scenarios available. Throwers take either three or six throws depending on if they make finals. Each throw is measured if it is a legal throw meaning that the thrower does not foul out of the circle being thrown from or throw outside of the sector lines. Once measured the athlete then waits his turn until his next throw. There is no one else inside the circle, no physical interaction with any other athlete, it is just the thrower and that is all. Therefore ethical problems do not often arise. Most ethical problems are what many would call “good sportsmanship” which is simply congratulating competitors on good throws, and generally being courteous. Most throwers tend to have the proper throwing etiquette such as be quiet while someone is throwing, or don’t stand at the back of the circle and stare at them before they throw. Although the faces shotputters and other throwers make are pretty hilarious.

Kurt Roberts

But in general etiquette is the main ethical issue. One issue that does arise for nearly all athletes but in particular throwers is the use of performance enhancing drugs. American throwing philosophy is to get as big, strong, and fast as possible. One way people in the past have accomplished this goal is through the use of performance enhancing drugs. Everything from steroids to human growth hormone have been used. The NCAA bans many more substances than the Olympic committee including amino acids and caffeine (in certain amounts). Most protein supplements and other weight-lifting supplements available on the market contain ingredients banned by the NCAA. Even certain Vitamin Water flavors contain banned ingredients. The current world record holder in shot put is often contested due to the fact that he was found to have used performance enhancing drugs. His throw of 75.85 ft is often considered illegitimate. Here is a video of his weight-lifting sessions.

This is the main ethical issue in throwing, and it is an interesting issue. Consider the argument that if everyone is allowed to use these drugs then the competition is still fair. This presents problems however when you get females being injected with testosterone causing adverse affects. This occurred to the shotputter from East Germany who as a result of the massive amounts of testosterone injected into her decided to just get a sex change and become a man. Also I believe that to allow performance enhancing drugs, at least in the Olympic sense, contradicts the very nature of the sport. The main purpose of throwers, and track and field in general is to push the human body to its natural limits. It is not to see how monstrous we can become through the use of chemicals. Some banned NCAA ingredients are a little strange however. Too much caffeine? To be fair it would take six or so cups of strong coffee before it reaches illegal levels, but I cannot see that happening often or to good affect. Besides, some athletes already use smelling salts to the same affect which is untraceable in drug tests. This is weird to be sure, but it does happen. Should it happen? I believe as long as the athlete is not relying on it and it does not affect performance long term then it is not a real issue. Some drugs are banned for good reasons others are just a little over-zealous on the banning. Either way it is a problem that occurs in every Olympics. Here are some throwing videos for those of you who have no idea what we do. Gneeral information, the shotput and hammer weigh 16lbs for men and 4kg (8.8lbs) for women. The discus is 2kg for men and 1kg for women.   

Sports and Ethics Go Hand-in-Hand

For someone who’s life has essentially revolved around sports, this is finally a prompt that I’m interested in writing. I rowed for just two years before college, but have competed in both the lightweight (130.0 lbs maximum) and openweight categories while at Bucknell. More importantly, I’ve been involved in hockey as a player since I could walk, as a referee for the last six years, and now as an intern for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. So to say I’ve seen my fair share of ethics play out in sports is an understatement.

The NCAA very actively attempts to ensure ethical behavior, especially in recruiting and compliance. Their entire process is a hassle for the 99% (figuratively) of athletes that report honest test scores, medical history, amateur status, and drug (non)use. Most student-athletes don’t even understand what the NCAA actually does, but we all just go to the meetings, sign the papers, and try not to get caught doing anything stupid that would cause an investigation. Although the NCAA is far from an exemplary organization itself (read about the NCAA’s Ethics Problem according to the New York Times), it does encourage ethical behavior from its athletes and coaches as stated in their operating bylaws. How well these rules are actually followed and how well they can be monitored is whole other story, but in general the NCAA imposes some ethical boundaries that promote fair competition and sportsmanship but it is up to individuals to actually make the ethical decisions. Although I have never had to verify practice hours, I know of coaches that do exceed the allowable weekly hours and put their players in a difficult ethical position when they are asked to confirm team compliance.

As a referee, I run through more ethical questions in my head in one game than I would otherwise in a year. Continue reading