By default, the Philippines is one of the most sports-savvy nations in the world, with the majority of the population following a specific sport religiously – whether it be basketball, football, or tennis. Following this thought, it doesn’t come as a surprise that a lot of Filipinos are invested in collegiate sports. If you’ve been part of the UAAP crowd or you’ve been lucky to experience the hype of collegiate sports tournaments, you’re probably familiar with how people revere student-athletes. However, an ongoing debate has surfaced regarding the commercialization of college sports as the Philippines started to adopt the American style of physical education and collegiate sports. In this article, we’ll delve into the effects of commercialization on college sports, the integrity of amateur practice, and the motivation of student-athletes.
What Effects Has Commercialization Had on College Sports?
Every so often one hears comments from former collegiate athletes and administrators of sports programs of colleges and universities about “the good old days when pure amateurism and playing out of sheer love for the game and one’s school” were the main reasons students joined high-school and collegiate teams. While this may still be applicable to some student-athletes, the Philippines’ choice of adopting the American way of “incorporating elite athletics into its educational system” might have introduced a plethora of both positive and negative effects on collegiate sports. However, the basic difference between the American practice and the Philippine version is that the former has very strict rules on recruitment and retaining the amateur status of high-school and college students. The Philippines still must deal with these problems head on through similar laws in the United States.
For example, this switch has made the recruitment process for collegiate sports a highly competitive trade. While these are only set aside as persistent rumors, recruiters are now allegedly offering student-athletes significant properties to win them over. These include giving condominium units, cars, cash, and the promise of employment to the student-athletes’ parents. If this alleged recruitment process is true, not only does this go against the integrity of collegiate sports, but it also puts undue pressure on student-athletes to choose a high-paying university. These situations are only ever possible because the Philippines today doesn’t have legislation that makes these illegal.
Pros and Cons of the Commercialization of College Sports
Now that we’ve talked about the effects of this commercialization, you might also be thinking whether granting student-athletes compensation and welcoming a regulated type of commercialization into collegiate sports may also have some benefit – and you’re not wrong for asking.
One of the positive effects is that commercialization can help student-athletes get the financial aid that they need for elite training. Because of the intense competition and high pressure, student-athletes need to spend a substantial amount of time and money to train almost exactly like how professional athletes do. In addition, student-athletes are also expected to pay for insurance or medical support when they suffer from injuries – some even career-ending – and accidents during tournaments.
Since collegiate sports brings in considerable funds into the institutions and tournaments through ticket sales, advertisements, and sponsorships, it would seem that it’s only right for some of it to trickle down to the student-athletes. This can serve as a type of compensation for bringing honor and glory to their schools and universities.
Following the same line of thought, universities and other educational institutions currently offer student-athletes incentives to not only support their education, but also to foster their sports career without putting up roadblocks due to financial constraints. Schools today give out considerations concerning tuition, miscellaneous school fees, books, learning materials, board and lodging, and equipment. Some even award student-athletes with reasonable living allowances.
On the other hand, the commercialization of collegiate sports also brings in a considerable number of cons to the student-athlete. One of them is that recruiters today are recruiting student-athletes who are as young as eighth grade – roughly about 13 to 15 years old. The reality today is that some young athletes are pressured by college coaches to choose their colleges before they even see their high-school classrooms for the first time. This begs the question of whether these children need to be protected from eagle-eyed recruiters who plan to put pressure on children to choose something so far into the future.
To be sure, a great number of students, parents and even college coaches are not happy with the situation but believe they have to participate in what some have called “an insanity” for fear of being left out and losing their jobs. Parents and athletes don’t want to miss out on a college scholarship and coaches don’t want to miss out on elite players.
In addition, some experts say that the commercialization of collegiate sports may lower the need for student-athletes to excel in their studies. Since they’ll be earning significant amounts of money through sports to support their practice, will student-athletes still be willing to finish school? Let’s not forget that before these athletes become elites in the realm of sports, first and foremost they are still and just undergraduates who are in need of high-quality education.
What Is the Philippines Doing to Address Commercialization in Collegiate Sports?
In terms of legislation, what is being done in the Philippines to ensure that collegiate sports do not “spin out of control”? In 2014, Sen. Pia Cayetano authored Senate Bill 2226, or the Student-Athletes Protection Act, which “prohibits schools from giving ‘commercial consideration’ to student-athletes or their immediate family members.”
This bill limits the support that student-athletes can get from their universities – mostly including education-based incentives. These include tuition, uniforms, living allowances, membership fees for health clubs, and gadgets and accessories “that will maximize the use of technology as a tool for learning.” Incentives other than these will not be allowed if Cayetano’s bill becomes a law. She said, “These benefits are contrary to the nature of amateur sports and may result in the commercialization of the student-athlete.” Undoubtedly, many things have to be clarified if and when the Cayetano bill becomes a law. What, for example is a reasonable living allowance? And how will the cost of these incentives be judged as being included in the acceptable range?