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Unpaid Professionals:
Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports
Andrew Zimbalist
With a new postscript by the author

Paperback | 2001 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691086903
280 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 14 tables
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400823079 |
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Big-time college sports embodies the ideals of amateurism and provides an important complement to university education. Or so its apologists would have us believe. As Andrew Zimbalist shows in this unprecedented analysis, college sports is really a massively commercialized industry based on activities that are often irrelevant and even harmful to education. Zimbalist combines groundbreaking empirical research and a talent for storytelling to provide a firm, factual basis for the many arguments that currently rage about the goals, history, structure, incentive system, and legal architecture of college sports. He paints a picture of a system in desperate need of reform and presents bold recommendations to chart a more sensible future.

Zimbalist begins by showing that today's problems are nothing new--that schools have been consumed for more than a century by debates about cheating, commercialism, and the erosion of academic standards. He then takes us into the world of the modern student athlete, explaining the incentives that, for example, encourage star athletes to abandon college for the pros, that create such useless courses as "The Theory of Basketball," and that lead students to ignore classes despite the astronomical odds against becoming a professional athlete. Zimbalist discusses the economic and legal aspects of gender equity in college sports. He assesses the economic impact of television and radio contracts and the financial rewards that come from winning major championships. He examines the often harmful effects of corporate sponsorship and shows that, despite such sponsorship, most schools run their athletic programs at a loss. Zimbalist also considers the relevance of antitrust laws to college sports and asks whether student athletes are ultimately exploited by the system.

Zimbalist's provocative recommendations include eliminating freshman eligibility for sports, restricting coaches' access to "sneaker money" from corporations, and ending the hypocrisy about professionalism by allowing teams to employ a quota of non-students as well as to receive funding from the pro leagues. A mixture of lively anecdotes, hard economic data, cogent arguments, and clear analysis, Unpaid Professionals will revitalize debate about a subject close to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.


"In remarkably clear and clear-eyed prose (even his charts are readable), Zimbalist follows the money instead of the ball in the emotion-charged world of college sports."--Robert Lipsyte, New York Times

"Zimbalist got game! . . . A solid analysis of a segment of American life that Zimbalist claims is in dire need of reform. After reading this book, you'll find it hard to disagree with him. . . . Lots of food for thought here."--John Greenya, The Washington Post Book World

"Complete and authoritative. . . Zimbalist offers a stinging indictment of the system, how it works for some and victimizes others."--Mark Hyman, Business Week

"College sports are all about money, but no one has ever followed that money as closely as Zimbalist does. . . . [A] stunning catalog of excess and exploitation."--Booklist

"Although many of the problems facing college athletics today have been around for decades, the explosion of money and media attention has so raised the stakes that college sports is on the verge of self-destruction, argues Zimbalist (Baseball and Billions), a professor of economics at Smith College. . . . Zimbalist, who knows his way around the locker room and a balance sheet, provides a compelling case for the need to reform college athletics."--Publisher's Weekly

"Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has written extensively on the business side of sports, assays whether big-time sports are worth the wealth of problems they create for colleges and universities. . . . Zimbalist concludes with a ten point reform program, including such steps as gathering financial support from professional leagues, having a quota of paid non-matriculated athletes, cutting football scholarships nearly in half, shortening seasons, and eliminating freshman eligibility."--John M. Maxymuk, Library Journal

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Chapter One Introduction 3
Chapter Two The Student as Athlete 16
Chapter Three Gender Equity I: Equal Opportunity for Athletes 54
Chapter Four Gender Equity II: Equal Pay for Coaches 74
Chapter Five The Media: Commercialization and Stratification 90
Chapter Six Commercial Connections 125
Chapter Seven The Bottom Line: Deficit or Surplus? 149
Chapter Eight The NCAA: Managing the System 173
Chapter Nine Whither Big-Time College Sports? Reform and the Future 188
Notes 207
Index 245

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