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Publisher's Summary

"How can the NCAA blithely wreck careers without regard to due process or common fairness? How can it act so ruthlessly to enforce rules that are so petty? Why won't anybody stand up to these outrageous violations of American values and American justice?"

In the four years since Joe Nocera asked those questions in a controversial New York Times column, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has come under fire. Fans have begun to realize that the athletes involved in the two biggest college sports, men's basketball and football, are little more than indentured servants. Millions of teenagers accept scholarships to chase their dreams of fame and fortune - at the price of absolute submission to the whims of an organization that puts their interests dead last.

For about 5 percent of top-division players, college ends with a golden ticket to the NFL or the NBA. But what about the overwhelming majority who never turn pro? They don't earn a dime from the estimated $13 billion generated annually by college sports - an ocean of cash that enriches schools, conferences, coaches, TV networks, and apparel companies...everyone except those who give their blood and sweat to entertain the fans.

Indentured tells the dramatic story of a loose-knit group of rebels who decided to fight the hypocrisy of the NCAA, which blathers endlessly about the purity of its "student athletes" while exploiting many of them: the ones who get injured and drop out because their scholarships have been revoked. The ones who will neither graduate nor go pro. The ones who live in terror of accidentally violating some obscure rule in the 400-page NCAA rulebook.

Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss take us into the inner circle of the NCAA's fiercest enemies. You'll meet, among others:

  • Sonny Vaccaro, the charismatic sports marketer who convinced Nike to sign Michael Jordan. Disgusted by how the NCAA treated athletes, Vaccaro used his intimate knowledge of its secrets to blow the whistle in a major legal case.
  • Ed O'Bannon, the former UCLA basketball star who realized, years after leaving college, that the NCAA was profiting from a video game using his image. His lawsuit led to an unprecedented antitrust ruling.
  • Ramogi Huma, the founder of the National College Players Association who dared to think that college players should have the same collective bargaining rights as other Americans.
  • Andy Schwarz, the controversial economist who looked behind the façade of the NCAA and saw it for what it is: a cartel that violates our core values of free enterprise.

Indentured reveals how these and other renegades, working sometimes in concert and sometimes alone, are fighting for justice in the bare-knuckles world of college sports.

©2016 Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss (P)2016 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Armament agnst NCAA: Enlightening, Infuriating


Don't get me started on the blatant hypocrisy I've watched over the past 22 years since taking a class in Sports Law in law school, a period over which the NCAA has repeatedly violated the precepts of basic fairness (forget about due process rights) that should have protected numerous student-athletes (and a few coaches), as the NCAA has run roughshod carrying the NCAA "rulebook" and in the name of "preserving" "amateurism" in college athletics (can I get a Hallelujah?!?!), while it, its member schools and their respective conferences have negotiated and signed astronomically $$expanding$$ TV and bowl contracts and marketed themselves into a CASH COW business rapidly approaching the scale of the NFL and MLB.

There's not a chapter in this book that isn't impeccably researched, well-written and eye-popping in its collection of assorted ironies on the positions taken by the NCAA and its Goon Squad (equated by numerous people to the Gestapo) bent on dashing the hopes of young athletes, their parents and even seeming to get very personal in their vendettas.

If you're a college athlete (no matter the division) or a college sports fan, I think you'll find this book very enlightening and, at times, extremely infuriating.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Long and somewhat jumbled

I would have liked the book more if I’d read it rather than listened to it. It would have been easier to flip back for reference.

While the narrator was nice (not good not bad not particularly memorable), I found this book difficult to follow at times. I found myself not caring if I missed some sentences or portions of the stories because this book really did not capture my attention.

I would have enjoyed this book more if it were half as long.

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Powerful case for paying college athletes

The last three chapters drive home the need to pay especially college football and basketball players. The author tried to be as fair as possible but ultimately advocates what I think is the correct point of view.

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couldn't put the book down

Loved the book. I knew the NCAA had some crazy rules but I had not known the extent of the ludicrous situations that have been going in for years. I now see how these players are like indentured servanrs. The system needs to change.

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Excellent expose'

Your look into the NCAA was eye-opening and brought out information that was previously known only to a select few. This organization is obviously in it for the money - the students and their education be damned. Great work. The NCAA plays on private jets and lives a life of luxury while kids in college (primarily black kids) try to sneak a sandwich without getting suspended for a bogus rules violation. I now have incredible disrespect for the NCAA and the colleges that wouldn't stand-up for the students.

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 03-24-16

Should Get Paid

When I think about NCAA, I always assume it's college basketball and football. I hardly ever think of it as other sports, such as fencing, lacrosse, rowing, or even golf. These sports are not market to the mainstream because there is no money. NCAA is another brand as NBA and NFL. Why shouldn't college athletes be paid? They are going on the courts and fields, risking life long injuries and only a few makes it to the next level, and as far as I'm aware of, there is no pro team for cross country.

"Indentured" is one of those books that you should read, but you don't really want to know because you love watching sports. Once you see your alumni win or loose, you turn off the game and life goes on as usual. You never think what will happen to the player as a student, or if they will even graduate after they play. We never think of these things when the game is over. We just see them as a player, thinking that they are getting a full ride and their futures are already planned out. Many of them will never go to the pros and they should be compensated for doing their job while getting an education.