National Collegiate Athletic Association

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The overarching body that administers college sport in the USA, founded in 1906. It introduced a national basketball championship in 1939, based on geographical qualifying competitions (‘conferences’ or leagues), play-offs, and a final to decide the national champion. This became a model for the structure and administration of national college/university competition across the USA. The NCAA's most dominant competitions are college basketball and college (American) football, and it was estimated in 2000 that 75 per cent of US colleges made profits from these sports, enabling the subsidization of other sport-activity programmes. NCAA conferences can also sign their own contracts with media providers, and in 1996–2000 the total value of those contracts for college football (for the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences, the Southern Conference and Notre Dame, and the Big Ten/Pac10, with broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC, and ESPN) was US$373 million per year (Wladimir Andreff, ‘Sport and Financing’, in Wladimir Andreff and Stefan Szymanski, eds, Handbook on the Economics of Sport, 2009). Conference championships have also been sponsored for millions of dollars, and stadium and arena naming rights sold in lucrative long-term deals. Alumni subscriptions and ticket sales have also boosted the income of NCAA members.

The NCAA acts, essentially, as the overarching authority of a multi-billion dollar industry that also provides a source of recruitment, via the draft system, into professional sports. This has created controversy over the scale and direction of college sports, and in 2003 Senator Orrin G. Hatch wrote of his, and many others', concern ‘that all this college football money is turning college sports into nothing more than a minor league for pro football rather than a legitimate educational activity for student athletes’ (Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing, Wednesday, 29 October). The NCAA therefore represents a central tension in the history of modern sport: the ideal of amateur, non-profit participation, threatened by the commercialization of the activity that it administers. It is a non-profit organization, pledged to its educational mission and the retention of ‘a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports’ (as stated in a 2003–4 manual), but with an annual revenue the previous year of US$354 million. Economists have also observed that in imposing rules on non-payment for student athletes, the NCAA operates a form of control over its labour force that creates a non-market situation to the benefit of itself and its members.

http://www.ncaa.org/ The official site of the USA's association for college athletics and sports, providing background history and news.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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