Partnership to Help NFL Players Finish College

CareersPersonal Finance
Posted By Terri Williams on May 19, 2017 at 7:17 am
Partnership to Help NFL Players Finish College

For athletes fortunate enough to play in the National Football League, the salaries can be staggering, the fame is irresistible and addictive, and the adulation is intoxicating. Football is an obsession in the U.S., and some college coaches earn more than college presidents. Fame and fortune often lure NFL players from campuses before they graduate.

The truth is, even as students, the rigors of playing/practicing/traveling are a hindrance to serious academic achievement for all but the most disciplined athletes. But while college is merely a stepping stone for NFL players, their professional tenure may be just as brief – and can often be followed by a reversal of fortune.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, from 2008 to 2014, the life span of pro football players decreased from 4.99 years to 2.66 years; the NFL Players Union puts the average career at 3.3 years.

And a mere three years after retirement, 78 percent of former players have spent all of their money; within 12 years, 15.7 percent of former players file for bankruptcy, according to a report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Of course, financial literacy is a problem among Americans in general and young Americans in particular. In fact, a recent survey reveals college students spending student loan money for others uses, including paying for cell phones, cars, clothing, and vacations. Also, almost a third of millennials have no savings.

So it’s little surprise that many NFL players may be mismanaging their money. But when they hang up their cleats, many are woefully unprepared for a life and a meaningful career off the gridiron.

Off-The-Field Goal for NFL players

However, Thomas Edison State University and Brewer Sports International, a sports management company, recently announced a partnership to help current and former NFL players finish their degree requirements. The Trenton, N.J., university is geared toward distance learning students, so athletes can study from anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection.

Dr. Mary Ellen Caro, vice president of enrollment management and learner services at Thomas Edison, tells GoodCall®, “This partnership responds to the existing educational needs of current and former NFL players to complete their degrees in order to transition to new careers.”

Since the school specializes in adult learners, Caro believes the school is an ideal fit. “Through the achievement of their college degrees, these athletes will benefit from individualized academic plans that build upon their previous educational experiences and competencies; and link to their current career interests, thus supporting their career transition.”

Both current and former NFL players can take advantage of the program. For those who may not be able to afford education-related expenses, Caro explains that the NFL Players Association Trust Program provides a variety of resources and services. “These benefits include, but are not limited to, reimbursement for tuition, fees and books related to undergraduate or postgraduate course work in higher education pursuits.”

Winning at the game of life

While some believe a degree provides little benefit to NFL players, Caro disagrees. “Although these athletes may have achieved fortune and fame without a college degree, the value of higher education cannot be underestimated,” she explains. “The skills and knowledge learned can allow for the pursuit of opportunities that may have otherwise been out of reach.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa, who says, “NFL players should definitely finish their degrees – it can only help them get what they are worth over a longer time span – not for just a few short years when they are active as players.”

Football fans tend to assume that NFL players make gobs of money, but those are the high-profile players like Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor ($27 million a year), Josh Norman ($24 million), and Cam Newton ($23 million). However, the typical player earns much less – although it’s not chump change.

“The average annual salary is around $860,000, but that’s just for that limited time frame, and when you factor in taxes and other expenses that the player ends up incurring during his time on the field, it’s important to have a plan B after the NFL.” In fact, Bolte recently explained how tech is a better bet than sports for those who want to become millionaires.

But for players savvy enough to complete their degree requirements, Bolte says the opportunities are plentiful. “Think about all the former players that got their degrees and went on to launch successful second careers, using their initial success in the NFL as a springboard for even greater earning potential down the road.”

“Take for example, Harris Barton, who played college football for UNC, got his degree in finance, and then went on to play for the 49ers,” Bolte says. “After pro football, he went on to start a venture firm with teammates Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana, and then later started his own angel investment firm.”

Also, Steve Young has a law degree, and so does Tim Green, who is a practicing attorney and bestselling New York Times author. Troy Vincent has a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison and is the NFL’s executive vice president.

NFL players leave the field at a relatively young age. But long after they cease to hear the roar of the crowd, they can find fulfillment in other types of employment. “Thinking beyond the NFL, with a degree as part of the plan, is undoubtedly an important step for current and former players who want the best for themselves and their families,” Bolte concludes.

And, there’s another benefit: when current and former NFL players obtain a degree, it sends a message to millions of NFL fans that education is important.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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