Bowl Game Gifts Raise Amateurism Debate

Although the NCAA strenuously defends the receipt of improper benefits by student-athletes, there is an exception for bowl season in college football.  The NCAA allows the bowls to present players with various gifts, so long as the total value does not exceed $500.  UConn, for example, received a RCA mini-camcorder, Pro Swiss Watch, Oakley Surf backpack and a football according to Sox & Dawgs, which compiled a list of the 2009-10 bowl swag.

An article by David Grant published in the Christian Science Monitor explores whether this exception is ethical.  Part of the concern is whether gifts have crossed the line from a souvenir (such a Bowl sweatshirt) to a free advertising opportunity for sponsors, promoted by players, to be seen by students around campus (such as the Oakley backpack).

With respect to turning athletes into walking advertisements, don’t schools already do that?  Most schools have entered into exclusive agreements that players wear uniforms, shoes and warmups made by a particular manufacturer, with that logo prominently featured.  When Nike outfits players in special uniforms for a single game, is that anything more than an advertising campaign? 

The NCAA strenuously defends its notion of amateurism despite the millions of dollars that are raked in during bowl season.  But by allowing these gifts from corporations, the NCAA appears to be making at least the slightest admission that players should be entitled to some benefit the revenue that they generate.   Sports Law Blog’s Michael McCann, who is quoted in the article, questions whether this exception should become the rule:

“If the same concerns about amateurism and protecting players are justifying rules that limit players’ access to financial resources during the season, why would they be any different here?” he asks.

This exception demonstrated the uneasy coexistence between the NCAA’s notion of amateurism and the reality of modern college football as big business.


  1. Flutie Magic says:

    Quetsion in regards to college/high school jerseys; There is a large market for “throwback” jerseys, mostly related to basketball, but I am sure it also happens in other sports. You have Lebron James’ St. Mary’s jersey being sold everywhere. I see many people wearing Paul Pierce Kansas’ jersey at Celtics games. Where does the money go for these types of sirts. Does the school get it? Do companies like nike by the rights to use the names of these schools to produce replica jerseys?
    Does the person whose jersey their replicating see any of the money?

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