Amateurism, Professionalism and the Value of College Sports


  • Heather Reid Morningside College



amateurism, professionalism, Myles Brand


The value of college sport can be measured in many ways. Most people measure it in dollars, others point to less-tangible benefits such as alumni engagement and campus morale, only a few focus on its educational value. Yet this, as Myles Brand repeatedly recognized, is the value that really counts. Brand’s was something of a voice in the wilderness on this issue—a voice sorely missed in this age of debate about limits on compensation for student-athletes. As a philosophy professor, Brand’s insistence on the educational value of sport follows a tradition begun in ancient Greece by Pythagoras, Socrates, and especially Plato. In this essay, I honor Brand and that ancient tradition by exploring the value of college sport from a philosophical perspective. I interrogate the oppositions of amateurism vs. professionalism, academics vs. athletics, and employment vs. exploitation to arrive at the paradoxical conclusion that ideals of excellence and professionalism are at the heart of “amateurism” in the context of college sport. Education, meanwhile, is the value in college sport that needs to guide all the others—including those that involve dollar signs.


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