NFL Players Union Helps Former Players Get a Leg Up

Working with Indiana University, the NFL Players Association is offering its members access to an MBA program. The goal: to ensure that players have just as much success off the field as they do on it.

Too many stories about former football stars go like this: A player sees great success in his career, both on the field and in his bank account, but after the glory days are over, life becomes a struggle.

Sure, there are exceptions: Former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan has become a popular daytime talk-show host, and comic actor Terry Crews is now far more famous for his TV shows and movies (most recently, his hosting gig on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) than anything he ever did on the field. But for many players, this isn’t the way life after football goes.

More common are stories like that of Terrell Owens, who spent much of his $80 million in earnings while still in the league, or Tiki Barber, who attempted a transition similar to Strahan’s but soon saw his TV opportunities fade. Barber then attempted, but failed, to re-enter the NFL.

The NFL Players Association wants to help change that ending to players’ stories, and it’s working with Indiana University to ensure that NFLPA members have a plan in place after their football careers end.

Last week, NFLPA announced a partnership with the university’s Kelley School of Business to give current and former players a customized graduate-level education later in their lives. The partnership will offer a career development program, credit and noncredit online courses, and a path to an MBA degree.

“Our leadership and innovation in delivering online programs provides the flexibility to design a winning experience for these accomplished athletes, many of whom will one day transition to new careers away from the football field,” Kelley School Dean Idalene Kesner said in a statement.

The school has long offered similar programs for professionals, but this program breaks new ground for the NFLPA. The players union noted that business education dovetails nicely with lessons already learned on the field.

“Today’s modern game involves a lot of the things that you’d learn in higher education, including marketing, branding, [and] entrepreneurship,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Bloomberg Businessweek.

Like all MBA programs, this one isn’t cheap, but school officials said former players will pay the same as others enrolled in Kelley’s online MBA program. Those who take part  starting in March 2015 will pay roughly $60,000 for the program.

The NFLPA hopes to drive more post-football success stories, like that of former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, right. (Disney-ABC Domestic Television)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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