Amending Amateurism

33 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2016 Last revised: 3 Aug 2017

See all articles by William W. Berry

William W. Berry

University of Mississippi School of Law

Date Written: February 15, 2016


College sports remains at a crossroads, with the NCAA’s defense of amateurism facing the dual threats of increased commercialization and antitrust lawsuits. By most accounts, this current status quo seems unsustainable. As such, this article seeks to propose a middle ground — a compromise solution — that provides greater remuneration for athletes in revenue sports in a way that would largely preserve both the NCAA and the virtues of the current system.

Specifically, this Article argues that the conferences, not the institutions, should provide compensation for student-athletes in the form of revenue sharing. Further, this Article advocates the formation of conference athlete unions that could negotiate compensation with the conferences and use the non-statutory labor exemption as a shield against antitrust lawsuits. As such, this proposal would amend the concept of amateurism to allow for payments from athletic conferences without altering the current relationship between student-athletes and their universities.

Part I of the Article outlines the first part of the problem — the shifting definition of amateurism — and how it creates increasing pressure on the current system. Part II explains the second problem — the anti-competitive characteristics of the current system and their vulnerability to antitrust lawsuits. Then, in Part III, the Article advances its proposal, which addresses both problems and offers a novel solution to them. Finally, in Part IV, the Article justifies this proposal demonstrating how this compromise solution can improve the situation of student-athletes without sacrificing the status quo.

Keywords: NCAA, amateurism, college, sports, student-athlete, antitrust, O'Bannon, Northwestern

Suggested Citation

Berry, William W., Amending Amateurism (February 15, 2016). 68 Alabama Law Review 551 (2016)., Available at SSRN: or

William W. Berry (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi School of Law ( email )

481 Chucky Mullins Drive
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States
6629156859 (Phone)

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