The Battle Outside of the Courtroom: Principles of 'Amateurism' vs. Principles of Supply and Demand

Mississippi Sports Law Review, 2014

29 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2014 Last revised: 25 Jan 2016

Date Written: February 6, 2014


The multi-billion dollar product of major college football is consumed by the public only if the small pool of highly and uniquely talented college athletes chooses to play. That is some serious power — or perhaps leverage is the more accurate term — possessed by this finite group of elite athletes. But, more importantly, these elite athletes are beginning to comprehend the leverage they possess and they are beginning to act on it. Athletes with remaining collegiate eligibility, who at one time feared the NCAA, have increasingly become more outspoken and litigious, and are much more willing to publicly challenge the perceived unfairness of "principles of amateurism" without fear of repercussions. Within just the past two years alone, we have witnessed unprecedented defiance to the current amateurism model by college athletes. This paper addresses what the author believes will be the most viable legal challenges to the principles of amateurism in the future. But taking it a step further, though Ed O'Bannon's pending consolidated class action lawsuit is viewed by many as the potential game changer to the NCAA’s business model, the author opines that basic economic principles of supply and demand will ultimately transform the business model of major college sports, irrespective of any past, present or future decisions by judges, juries or labor relations boards. The paper addresses why financial reporting by universities reflecting that 23 out of 228 public university athletic departments earn a profit is meaningless in relation to the exponentially increasing revenues and profits generated on an annual basis by universities selling the product of major college football, resulting in an increasing suppression of the players' market value that is being funneled into rising multi-million dollar annual compensation packages of all of the coaches, athletic directors, and conference commissioners running it. In order for them to maintain this level of compensation and to maintain a product that requires for its existence the performances of a finite labor pool possessing highly unique skills, they will ultimately need to make concessions with athletes who are becoming more sophisticatedly organized and demanding more rights and benefits in exchange for their services.

Suggested Citation

Karcher, Richard T., The Battle Outside of the Courtroom: Principles of 'Amateurism' vs. Principles of Supply and Demand (February 6, 2014). Mississippi Sports Law Review, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Richard T. Karcher (Contact Author)

Eastern Michigan University ( email )

318 Porter Building
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
United States
(734) 487-9134 (Phone)

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