Why are Pros Allowed to Race Collegiate?

From USA Cycling Collegiate Monthly Newsletter:

Under NCAA rules, professional athletes are not allowed to compete in collegiate athletics, but as cycling isn’t an NCAA sport, pros are welcome. But what’s the motivation behind this? Isn’t it a bit unfair and against the ethos of collegiate athletics? Here are a few basic thoughts on the matter, which came to the forefront after a rule change proposal this year (see below) asked that Pro Cyclists be banned from competition.

  • Logistics: So how does one define a pro cyclist? It’s a bit trickier than defining a pro basketball player or a pro football player. Even with the UCI Protour, the USPRO calendar, and the common-sense definition of drawing a paycheck for your riding, it would get a little hairy when it came time to enforce a rule barring pros. Especially since so few female “pro” cyclists even draw a paycheck. Between definition and enforcement alone, such a rule could easily be more trouble than it would be worth.

    Paul Mach of UC Davis

  • Meaning in Winning: If you win a collegiate A race, and there are some pros in your field (which is always the case at Nationals, and usually the case on the conference level), you’ve certainly proven yourself. It’s a great moment to achieve, and it makes the win that much more valuable. If pros weren’t allowed, how would you measure yourself against the best of the best? You couldn’t, and you might easily second guess the value of your win.
  • Pride: There’s certainly a great feeling to be had in racing with pro athletes, even if they’re kicking your butt. Knowing that you can at least slightly duke it out with these riders is a great source of pride for a lot of people, and it could easily take the fun out of some A races.
  • Inclusivity: Part of the philosophy of collegiate cycling is to include as many people as possible, from the bottom of the ladder to the top. Why bar someone from racing in one of the greatest environments out there? Collegiate cycling is a great experience, and it’s worth sharing.
  • Credibility: Given the currently small size of most college cycling teams, it’s important to add credibility and star power to any and all teams that can attract it. Think of it this way. What if Taylor Phinney were to apply to your school to get his degree? If he wanted to race on your team, would you want to let him? Or would you happily say, “Sorry, pros aren’t allowed?”
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