Exploitation in the American Academy: College Athletes and Self-perceptions of Value

By Derek Van Rheenen.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The exploitation of college athletes, particularly Black revenue athletes, has been a persistent topic of controversy within American higher education for the past half century. Strikingly absent in this literature are the college athletes themselves. This research study of 581 NCAA Division I college athletes examines these participants’ perceptions of feeling exploited by the university for their athletic ability and potential. Comparative analyses are reported based upon gender, race, year-in-school and scholarship status. Differences between revenue, defined as football and men’s basketball, and nonrevenue or Olympic sports (all other intercollegiate athletic teams) are reported. Findings demonstrate significant differences across several of these demographic and sport-specific categories. Findings also suggest that the perceived exploitation experienced by college athletes is more complicated than a simple financial or educational exchange. Several social and educational implications are discussed.

Keywords: American College Athletes, Black Revenue College Athletes, Exploitation, Self-perceptions of Institutional Value

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.11-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.827MB).

Dr. Derek Van Rheenen

Adjunct Professor/Director, Athletic Study Center, M.A., Cultural Studies of Sport in Education, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

Derek earned his Ph.D (1997) in Cultural Studies, his Master’s degree (1993) in Education, and his undergraduate degree in Political Economy/German (1986), all from U.C. Berkeley. Derek joined the faculty in 1997. He has taught courses in American Studies and in the School of Education. He coordinates the Cultural Studies of Sport in Education M.A. in the Graduate School of Education. Derek’s research interests include children’s play and games, literacy development in non-school settings, and the connections between sports, culture and learning. His publications include Out of Bounds: When Scholarship Athletes Become Academic Scholars (2010, Peter Lang Press), “The Promise of Soccer in America: the Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures,” “Boys Who Play Hopscotch: The Historical Divide of a Gendered Space,” “Noncognitive Predictors of Student Athletes’ Academic Performance,” and “Academic Motivation and the Student Athlete.” As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Derek earned Academic All-American honors and played professional soccer in the United States for several years following graduation. Derek was inducted into the CAL Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.