On the first day of the NFL’s 2014-15 season, football pros already have something to do a cute little victory dance about. And I’m not talking about their selection on my fantasy team, “The Ladies II.”
Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is partnering with the NFL players’ union to offer a specialized MBA to current and former players, the school announced on Wednesday.
“The connection between playing football and being in the business world” is strong, says George Atallah, a spokesman for the National Football League Players Association, the league’s union. “Today’s modern game involves a lot of the things that you’d learn in higher education, including marketing, branding, [and] entrepreneurship.”
Starting in March, would-be businessmen in the NFL will get to enroll in Kelley’s 45-credit online MBA program for a cost of over $60,000.
“We don’t jack [the cost] up for the NFL players just because they’re NFL players,” says Ash Soni, the executive associate dean at Kelley.
Players have reasons to want more education. Despite making an average $1.9 million a year, they only get that salary for about three and a half seasons, according to a GQ magazine report last year. In 2009, Sports Illustrated said that the vast majority—78 percent—of NFL players are broke or in dire financial straits within two years of quitting the sport.
As a part of the NFLPA’s collective bargaining agreement, in 2015 current players will be eligible for up to $20,000 in tuition reimbursement, which would cover about a third of the program’s cost, but only if they maintain at least a C average.
It will take players about two and a half years to graduate with a degree in business administration, through a combination of online and face-to-face instruction, says Soni. The school will offer one- to two-week courses tailored to players’ interests. Kelley is considering using the intensive setting for subjects such as wealth management and real estate investment.
“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,” said Kelley Dean Idalene Kesner in a statement. The Kelley School ranked 15th in Bloomberg Businessweek’s most recent list of the top MBA programs in the country.
Business education options for football players have increased in the past year. In April, for-profit DeVry University began offering business management courses to NFL alumni at a discounted rate, and George Washington University recently launched an executive MBA program tailored to professional athletes, called STAR (Special Talent, Access, and Responsibility).
“We encourage all of our members to obtain higher education, certainly, so that they can enrich their lives beyond their playing careers,” says Atallah, the NFLPA spokesman. Given how quickly some of the sport’s pros go from millionaire to pauper, a little enriching could go a long way.