Check out this stat: According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated study, 78% of NFL players face financial hardship – including bankruptcy – within two years of retirement.
That’s a joke, right? In 2012, the average NFL salary was $1.9 million dollars, with players expected to earn $6.7 million over an average 3.5 year career. This year, the lowest base salary is $420,000 for rookies. Even practice squad players make over $20,000 a week!
So why are players crying poverty? Well, you can blame the usual suspects: bad investments, spending splurges, family guilt trips, injuries, and non-guaranteed contracts. Beyond that, there’s one thread uniting players who fall on hard times: questionable business acumen. Despite teams investing in player development specialists to ease players back into work or school, many simply don’t heed their advice. They always believe their bodies have another year left. But they’re really playing on borrowed time, where one “pop” can end their careers.
Now, the NFL’s Players Association is taking another step to help members transition into the business world, forming a partnership with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business on a customized graduate business education program.
“We are excited about the new opportunity the Indiana University Kelley School of Business is offering our players,” said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. “We pride ourselves in helping our members be knowledgeable about the business of football and putting them on the right path to succeed off the field. This relationship will achieve both.”
According to the school, the program will provide credit and non-credit courses, along with certificate and degree programs, which will be conducted mostly online.
Here’s how it works. Active and retired players can enroll in an initial career program, which includes the school’s foundational Me, Inc. curriculum, which is taken by all first-year Kelley MBAs. Here, players will discover their personal brand and how to connect it to prospective careers and employers. As part of this orientation, players will also receive career coaching from Kelley staff on networking and interviewing.
After completing this orientation, players can choose two paths. First, they can take non-credit online courses on topics like personal finance, real estate, wealth management and entrepreneurship. Otherwise, they can enroll in a four-course certificate program, earning credits that be used towards a Master’s degree or an MBA. According to the university, the online credit courses will also include on-site residencies. Like Kelley’s full-time MBA program, the NFLPA-Kelley partnership will include a capstone project along with global immersion courses outside the United States.
It is not known yet how much of the program’s tab will be picked up by the union on behalf of their members.
Kelley, which ranked #1 in Poets and Quants’ 2014 ranking of online programs, may be the perfect host for the NFLPA program. A leader in customized professional education, Kelley’s clients have included General Electric, John Deere, and Deloitte over the years. And it topped all other schools in Bloomberg Businessweek’s most recent survey of student satisfaction.
According to Idalene Kesner, the school’s dean, Kelley is thrilled to partner with the NFLPA. “Our leadership and innovation in delivering online programs provides the flexibility to design a winning experience for these accomplished athletes, many of whom soon will transition to new careers away from the football field,” she says.
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