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Pay for Play

A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform

Ronald A. Smith

Publication Year: 2010

In an era when college football coaches frequently command higher salaries than university presidents, many call for reform to restore the balance between amateur athletics and the educational mission of schools. This book traces attempts at college athletics reform from 1855 through the early twenty-first century while analyzing the different roles played by students, faculty, conferences, university presidents, the NCAA, legislatures, and the Supreme Court. _x000B__x000B_Pay for Play: A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform also tackles critically important questions about eligibility, compensation, recruiting, sponsorship, and rules enforcement. Discussing reasons for reform--to combat corruption, to level the playing field, and to make sports more accessible to minorities and women--Ronald A. Smith candidly explains why attempts at change have often failed. Of interest to historians, athletic reformers, college administrators, NCAA officials, and sports journalists, this thoughtful book considers the difficulty in balancing the principles of amateurism with the need to draw income from sporting events.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Sport and Society

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Woodrow Wilson, as an undergraduate at Princeton University in the 1880s, was an athletic “cheerleader” for his beloved Princeton Tigers. Later, when he was a professor of political economy at Wesleyan University, he helped coach the football team in its competition...

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pp. 1-7

A resort steamer, Lady of the Lake, lay on the calm waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, on a fine day in August 1852, while the excited passengers listened to martial music of the Concord Mechanics Brass Band. They all awaited the beginning of competition...

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1. Student-Controlled Athletics and Early Reform

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pp. 8-17

Walter Camp, often called the “Father of American Football,” may have stated best the role students played in creating American intercollegiate athletics. “Neither the faculties nor other critics assisted in building the structure of college athletics,” Camp noted, three years after completing his six-year football career at Yale, “it is...

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2. Faculty, Faculty Athletic Committees, and Reform Efforts

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pp. 17-25

The Harvard Athletic Committee in 1889, with a strong faculty hand, stated: “We are entirely in accord with the effort made by the students of [Harvard] to reform college sports.” The Committee anticipated “that they shall hereafter be played under rules which will limit participation in them to bona fide members of the University.”1 This response...

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3. Early Interinstitutional Reform Efforts

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pp. 25-33

Reform efforts by students, who created intercollegiate athletics, and those of athletic committees were not substantial in the latter years of the nineteenth century. The students who controlled athletics had a desire for equitable rules to create a level, competitive playing field, but they were little concerned with the influence athletics...

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4. Presidents: Promoters of Reformers?

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pp. 34-41

The satirist and playwright George Ade wrote a popular comic play in 1904, The College Widow, catching the spirit of college presidents as promoters of intercollegiate athletics. “Do you know, Mr. Bolton,” President Witherspoon of Atwater College said to the star Atwater football player, “this craze for pugilistic sports is demoralizing our...

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5. Football, Progressive Reform, and the Creation of the NCAA

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pp. 42-51

“In view of the tragedy on Ohio Field today,” New York University Chancellor Henry M. MacCracken telegraphed Charles W. Eliot, requesting that the Harvard president call “a meeting of university and college presidents to undertake the reform or abolition of football...

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6. The NCAA: A Faculty Debating Society for Amateurism

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pp. 51-58

For its first half century, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was principally a debating society for faculty representatives interested in amateur athletics. If the smaller schools that had founded the NCAA in December 1905 could have had their way, it would have been more than a debating society, but if it had been given...

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7. The 1920s and the Carnegie Report on College Athletics

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pp. 59-70

Following America’s entry into World War I, athletics in colleges had been reduced because of the war effort, but after the armistice there was a burst of sporting activity in the nation generally and most notably in intercollegiate athletics. In the colleges this included conducting the first national championships, increasing the hiring of professional...

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8. Individual Presidential Reform: Gates Hutchins, and Bowman

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pp. 71-81

Though college presidents for eight decades had generally been unsuccessful in effecting reform that would reduce commercialism and professionalism in intercollegiate sport, some uncommon presidents attempted to do so at their own institutions. After all, with the...

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9. Presidential Conference Reform: The 1930s Graham Plan Failure

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pp. 81-88

The three president-initiated institutional reforms could be considered failures, for none of the three had a lasting impact on reform at the regional or national level. President Frank Graham of the University of North Carolina, however, had plans to reform the Southern Conference, and later to take his reforms nationally, at the time university leaders Thomas S. Gates, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and John Bowman were...

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10. The NCAA and the Sanity Code: A National Reform Gone Wrong

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pp. 88-98

The Sanity Code following World War II was to college athletic reform what President Woodrow Wilson’s “War to End All Wars” was to world peace following World War I. Neither worked. As the naïveté of the leaders of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) led to the belief that all would be well with the passage of the Sanity Code in 1948, Wilson’s...

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11. Ivy League Presidential Reform

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pp. 99-108

Presidential reform had not succeeded in individual colleges in the 1930s, nor had the presidential reform Graham Plan met with success at the conference level. The national reform Sanity Code, undermined by a number of presidents specifically in the South, had died shortly...

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12. Scandals and the ACE Reform Effort in the 1950s

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pp. 109-120

Not since the football crisis of 1905–6 had the nation experienced the need for intercollegiate athletic reform as it did during and after the scandalous year of 1951. Whereas the earlier crisis in football had been based upon brutality and questionable ethics under the existing football rules, the early 1950s crisis was the result of gambling...

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13. Lowly Standards: Chaos in the Sports Yards

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pp. 121-131

The scandals of 1951 led to no long-term, meaningful reform in college athletics. This was not unexpected, for past history would indicate that governing boards, presidents, alumni, and students, though not faculty, preferred the professionalized and commercialized model that had developed over the previous century. That model for men’s...

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14. The Hanford Report, Rejected Reform, and Proposition 48

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pp. 131-140

In the same month the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) convention decided to remove all national academic requirements for athletes to participate as freshmen and throughout their college years, the January 1973 peace agreement was reached, theoretically ending the Vietnam...

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15. Title IX and Governmental Reform in Women's Athletics

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pp. 141-150

Historically, reform generally originated within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), conferences, or individual institutions, but possibly the greatest reform in college athletics arose from federal legislation: Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972...

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16. African Americans, Freshman Eligibility, and Forced Reform

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pp. 151-164

If the women’s educational model was losing its impact during the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’s (AIAW’s) decade-long control of women’s sport, there was no comparable model for the participation of African Americans, men or women. While most collegiate...

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17. Presidential Control, Minor Reform, and the Knight Commission

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pp. 164-175

While major reform came from outside the universities in the form of federal legislation and judicial decisions, big-time college presidents wanted a greater say in how athletics were run. College presidents, since the beginning of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), had a great deal of power to control the direction taken by intercollegiate...

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18. NCAA Reorganization, the Board of Presidents' Reform, and the APR

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pp. 175-186

University presidents had not been the major leaders of reform after the creation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1905, but by the end of the century they demanded more power within the NCAA. The presidents, though they had just been successful...

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19. Faculty Reform Efforts: CARE, the Drake Group, and COIA

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pp. 187-197

University faculties for well over a century have generally been reticent to call for athletic reform, with some notable exceptions. Harvard and Princeton faculties in the 1880s decided they must do something to slow the dominance of intercollegiate athletics that was negatively influencing the education of their undergraduates. A Harvard athletic committee commented...

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20. The Freshman Rule: A Nearly Forgotten Reform

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pp. 197-206

For much of the twentieth century, a nearly universal rule existed in American intercollegiate sport for men: the freshman ineligibility rule. However, when the first intercollegiate football game (a soccer-like match) took place between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, the...

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pp. 207-212

Reform in college athletics has meant different things to different individuals. For instance, freshman eligibility when passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s was considered financial reform by some. To others, it was inane from an academic standpoint, for freshman ineligibility...

Intercollegiate Athletic Reform Timeline

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pp. 213-236


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pp. 237-284


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pp. 285-326


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pp. 327-356

About the Author, Further Reading, Publication Information

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pp. 357

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090288
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035876

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Sport and Society

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • College sports -- United States -- History.
  • College sports -- Moral and ethical aspects -- United States -- History.
  • College sports -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History.
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association -- History.
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