According to the NCAA's charter, it operates with high minded principles with respect to amateurism:
Student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived. Student participation in intercollegiate athletics is an avocation, and student-athletes should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises.
This is so much bunk; The NCAA's interest in preventing the exploitation of student-athletes is apparently to clear the field for its own exploitation. The NCAA enters into contacts worth billions of dollars with TV networks CBS and ESPN, using these student athletes as the draw.
The players don't see any of these billions, but they are getting a fine education, right? More bunk, nobody really cares if these guys are educated or graduated, for example according to the NCAA's own statistics mens black basketball players on Division IA squads only graduate at a rate that hovers around 35-36%. Of course, the vast majority of these kids don't make the pros, so when their eligibility is up they are spit out by the institution, with no education or job training, and never having seen a nickel of the money they were making for the NCAA when they should have been preparing themselves for later life.
Earlier this month, the NCAA spoiled the life-long dream of a real student athlete, who refused to be exploited. Jeremy Bloom is a world champion freestyle skier, who also has always wanted to play football for Colorado (heaven knows why he chose Colorado). The NCAA allows students who turn professional in one sport to retain their amateur status in another, but not if endorsements are involved. The problem is that there aren't any professional ski teams, so the only source of funding for a professional skier is through endorsements. Bloom had given up endorsements so he could play football. He has had his moments:
With his college football debut in 2002, he passed up earnings from skiing temporarily to play, Jeremy Bloom became one of the top 5 punt returners in the nation and earned All-American freshman honors. During his freshman season, Jeremy's highlight reel included three scoring plays of 75 yards or more, including setting a CU reception record at 94 yards, and an 80-yard punt return during a Big 12 Championship game.
However the winter Olympics are approaching, and if Bloom is going to compete he needs the endorsements to defray the costs of training. The NCAA has turned down his request that he be allowed to keep his skiing endorsements and still play college football, killing this kid's dream (and depriving us of the opportunity to watch him play) with no benefit other than the maintenance of a stuffy bureaucracy.
The NCAA has now done the same thing to star wide receiver Mike Williams, two days before USC's opening game against Virginia Tech. Williams, relying on a Court decision in Maurice Clarett's lawsuit against the NFL, thought he was eligible for the NFL draft. He obtained an agent and started concentrating on the draft. But Clarett's decision was overturned, and Williams did what he could to reclaim his eligibility. He went to classes, and summer school, fired his agent, and repaid the money he had received. But this wasn't good enough for the NCAA, which cruelly delayed its decision until the last minute. And now the best wide receiver on the USC campus (maybe in the country) will be watching the game on TV.
The NCAA's hypocrisy is shown by the fact that it has no problem extending eligibility to drug dealers and felons, for example Willie Williams who only has about a dozen arrests and multiple convictions to his credit.
I guess the only thing that matters to the NCAA is that its stable of talent never get to share in any of the proceeds. If that floodgate ever opens, well there might be less for that venerable governing organization.