'The Business Of Amateurs' Tackles Complicated Relationship Between Student Athletes And NCAA

Jun 20, 2016

The class schedule of a full-time student, hours of homework and 40 to 80 hours a week of practice, all while balancing extracurricular and social activities. This is the life of a student athlete, or really, an “athlete student” according to Bob DeMars, former University of Southern California defensive end and creator of the documentary “The Business of Amateurs.”

His documentary chronicles the experiences of college athletes and their complicated relationship with the NCAA. DeMars said the project was crafted by student athletes for student athletes and showcases original songs, animation and compositions.

“It’s a really big topic,” DeMars said. “It’s not just the head injuries. It’s the academic rights, the financial aspect.”

DeMars said student athletes are not protected by the NCAA regarding injuries and trauma. Often, the organization revokes scholarships due to a player’s physical ineligibility, he said.  

While “student” precedes “athlete” in the colloquial term, DeMars said schools will do anything to keep an academically ineligible student eligible.

“The NCAA was really founded to benefit the health and the welfare of the athlete,” DeMars said. “They now are about protecting their brand.”

The NCAA coined the term “student athlete” in the 1950s to avoid paying workers compensation to Fort Lewis A&M student athlete Ray Dennison’s widow after he died playing football. Since then, the term has been used to forbid any school’s athlete from commercializing their name or generating personal profit.

“Student athlete is really the only walk of life where you don’t receive your value,” DeMars said.

While frustrated with the student athlete experience, DeMars has focused his sights on educating both the public and the NCAA about the importance of protecting these young stars.

“College sports is worth saving. It’s something that we love,” DeMars said. “But this is what we do with things we care about, things we love, is we push them to be better.”

“The Business of Amateurs” will hit the big screen Wednesday, June 22 at Cinemark in the North Hills as part of its national tour.

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