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How Colleges and Universities Can Invest in Student-Athletes Beyond Athletics

In a February 2021 episode of the I Am Athlete podcast, former NFL Player Fred Taylor said the NCAA and colleges should make finance courses mandatory for student-athletes.

Later that year, following the NIL policy changes, Invesco, an NCAA corporate partner, launched a digital game called “How Not to Suck at Money.” The game is set in a college town, where students learn how to make important financial decisions by helping characters solve money problems in areas like budgeting, investing and starting a new job.

Although the game is a creative approach to assist student-athletes in learning money management, it isn’t enough to be considered the official financial education program of the NCAA, when most players don’t have a background in financial literacy.

College athletes collectively made around $917 million from NIL payments in the first year, with the most lucrative deals going to standouts in football and men’s basketball. This means each Division I athlete earned about $3,700. So while some players, like Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders and LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese have cashed in on million dollar deals, other athletes are yielding more modest earnings. For example, student athletes who receive partial athletic scholarships and would otherwise take out loans to pay for school can use NIL opportunities to mitigate student loan debt.

Many players in revenue-generating sports aren’t well-positioned for competitive entry into the workforce because the time commitment of sports limits their opportunity to gain relevant work experience through internships and career readiness workshops.

Colleges need to take a stance to foster the financial wellness of their players. One successful example is The University of Nebraska-Lincoln who partnered with Opendorse to launch an app that provides players with lessons on financial literacy, networking and other life skills. The university also added the #NILbraska initiative, where athletes are paired with peer mentors from the UNL law and business schools to help them navigate NIL contracts, manage their finances and become equipped with skills that align with multiple professions.

Systems need to be in place to ensure NIL compensation doesn’t become a trade-off for professional-career preparation.

For this to happen, academic advisors should make sure players are aware of local networking events and job fairs that align with their majors. Additionally, coaches can connect their players with boosters who have businesses in their field of study so they can gain experience through job shadowing and internships during off seasons.

The NCAA could also do more for athletes who have graduated but may not feel equipped to enter the job marketplace by partnering with its corporate sponsors to develop post-graduate externship and fellowship programs.

Athletes being able to monetize their brand is a well-overdue precedent that’s putting them in a position to have a better quality of life. Career readiness was a problem before NIL deals and will continue to be an issue unless the proper measures are put in place. Student-athletes deserve to be paid but money doesn’t negate the need for life skills.

I’m Robin Boylorn, until next time, keep it crunk!

Written by Brittany Young

Edited by Robin Boylorn


Brittany Young is Alabama Public Radio's Program Director and Content Manager. Brittany began her public radio journey in the spring of 2015 as a news intern for APR while in graduate school at The University of Alabama.