Covering the Spread: An Assessment of Amateurism and Vulnerability of Student-Athletes in an Emerging Culture of Sports Wagering

Caitlin D. Buckstaff · 16 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 133

Abstract

Sports gambling is an extremely lucrative, but scrutinized, industry. Athletic organizations contend that any form of sports wagering adversely affects players, teams, and spectators. They argue that intermingling gambling with sports turns spectators into skeptics and taints honest and fair competition. Congress enacted legislation limiting the scope of permissible sports wagering, but this legislation is under attack by many states advocating its repeal. The expansion of legalized sports wagering poses a threat, particularly on collegiate athletics. By definition, college athletes are amateurs. The definition of amateurism forms the foundation for the regulations governing intercollegiate competition. But, this status coupled with the transformation of collegiate athletics into a billion-dollar industry intensifies college athletes’ vulnerabilities to external threats associated with sports wagering. This Note argues that applying a definition of amateurism strictly premised on the prohibition of compensation harms rather than protects the core values of the student-athlete. In light of the evolution of sports wagering, the Note calls for an internal audit of the governing institution, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Utilizing its authority to promulgate binding regulations on its member institutions, the NCAA should redefine amateurism to protect itself and the ideal of the student-athlete from the threats of sports wagering.