Walter Byers

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Walter Byers (born March 13, 1922) was the first executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He served from 1951 to 1988. He also helped start the United States Basketball Writers Association in 1956. The NCAA Walter Byers Scholarship is named in his honor.

Byers expanded the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1951 to 16 teams, the first step in expanding the tournament to the spectacle it is today. The number of teams fluctuated over the next few decades, but never went below 16 again and eventually expanded further under Byers' leadership. The tournament previously had just eight teams. WFAN New York's Mike Francesa referred to him as an "Oz-like" figure who ran the NCAA with ultimate control.

In his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes[1] Byers turned against the NCAA in its current form, saying it established "a nationwide money-laundering scheme." (P. 73). Byers also revealed that the NCAA developed the term "student-athlete" in order to insulate the colleges from having to provide long term disability payments to players injured while playing their sport (and making money for their university and the NCAA). (P. 69).

Byers concludes the book demanding that Congress, "Free the Athletes," and enact a "comprehensive College Athletes' Bill of Rights." (P. 374). He says that "[t]his is not a suggestion for new government controls; on the contrary, it is an argument that the federal government should require deregulation of a monopoly business operated by not-for-profit institutions contracting together to achieve maximum financial returns." Doing so would treat the "twin curses of exploitation and hypocrisy that have bedeviled college athletics in direct proportion to its intensified commercialization," and would prevent colleges from denying players the freedoms available to other students. (P. 375). Finally, he says, "Collegiate amateurism is not a moral issue; it is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice. . . , [one which] 'operat[es] an air-tight racket of supplying cheap athletic labor.'" (Pp. 376, 388).

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  1. ^ Byers, Walter (1995). Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes. USA: The University of Michigan Press. 

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