Should college athletes be kept in the role of amateurs or be paid for their contributions?
Eric Moyen, Lee University’s chair of the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Secondary Education, presented a history of the Southeastern Conference to explore this question while speaking to the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
“The SEC just released a 20-year extension of their multibillion dollar contract with ESPN through 2034,” Moyen said.
The NCAA also makes money by using college athlete’s characters in video games and by selling jerseys with their names.
“More and more coaches are saying it is time to pay our players,” Moyen said.
Moyen commented that another collegiate sports organization, comprised of schools that can afford to pay their players, may be formed in the future.
According to the 1930s perspective, college athletics does not follow amateurism.
“In 1932, a group of key presidents got together ... they had a secret meeting and they said we need to do something about athletics,” Moyen said. “They pulled 13 of the teams that were in the Southern Conference and formed what we call the SEC.”
The goal of all these rules was to bring college football back to true amateurism.
The conference wanted to get away from college sports being influenced by outside sources and have it run by the college’s physical education departments.
“There were all kinds of different quotes from presidents at the universities about how they needed to stop the downtown gang, about how they needed to get the boosters under control, how they needed to have the coaches stop scouting, recruiting, so they put rules into effect,” Moyen said.
“The great goal they had here was to get sports out of the hands of the media and get the sports programs back in P.E. departments.”
These rules shortened collegiate football to 10 weeks and permission from the SEC was required to play in a postseason bowl game. These rules also called for an end of recruiting practices and bringing an end to athletic scholarships.
The presidents of these SEC universities felt coaches also needed to be professors and contribute to the students’ academic experience.
Universities would report to the conference president on rumors they heard of scouting at their schools. However, they would not report on their own activity.
“In 1934, the SEC decided to sign a radio broadcast contract where games would be broadcast every week,” Moyen said.
The $60,000 in revenue generated by the contract was divided by the SEC schools “after 15 percent of it was given to the SEC for administrative costs,” Moyen said.
The first SEC president, Frank McVey, continually tried to get universities to report what their athletic practices were.
“Then things change in 1935 — Frank McVey was gone as president. John Tiger took over... and almost immediately he said, ‘OK, we need to end this talk of not subsidizing players, everybody’s doing it,” Moyen said.
From that point scholarships were offered to college athletes. Teams were also permitted to participate in the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.
Sewanee-The University of the South was a part of the orignal SEC, but later pulled out. The University of Chicago took a similar stand against “big-time football,” according to Moyen.