Posted by: Louis Lavelle on December 1, 2009
Though seemingly invincible on the field it is becoming increasingly clear that NFL players are especially vulnerable off of it. In the past year alone retired players have made headlines for alarming head injury rates and an inability to hold on to the millions they earned as fresh-faced 20-somethings. The Thunderbird Global School of Management (Thunderbird Full-Time MBA Profile) is aiming to restore at least part of that infallible aura.
In March, Sports Illustrated reported that within just two years of retirement, an astounding 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial distress. Hoping to fill an educational void for these players, Thunderbird announced it will launch a professional business certificate program this spring to educate current and retired NFL players on money management. The certificate program, entitled “Develop Your Skills for High-Performance Global Business Success,” was designed specifically with football players in mind.
As BusinessWeek reported back in June, The program is not the first of its kind. For the past five years the NFL has teamed with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile), Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile), the Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile) and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Full-Time MBA Profile) to form the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program. The courses are held at the various schools for about five days in the early spring and attract more than 100 players annually. Kellogg also has a similar partnership with the NBA for summer business education programs.
The Thunderbird edition of the program will last two weeks and include courses in an array of business topics – ranging from entrepreneurship, to brand and business strategy courses – taught by regular Thunderbird faculty. If anyone can relay the business lessons to former athletes better than the school’s faculty, it’s Junior Bryant. A former NFL player, Bryant is now a successful entrepreneur and has signed on as just one of several anticipated guest speakers for the program. Upon completion, athletes will earn a $5,000 credit towards a Thunderbird MBA in addition to their Business Management Certificate.
The NFL encourages its players to secure business education because so many encounter financial difficulties when their playing days are over. NFL players, on average, have the shortest careers of any major professional athlete. Combine that with years of overlooking education in favor of athletic pursuits and the threat of divorce that leaves many NFL players in financial ruin, football players are in particular need for a foundation in business principles.
“It is never too early for professional athletes to prepare for a second career and to take control of their off-field affairs,” said Terrell Jones, co-founder of AVT Global LLC and founder and CEO of TJones Group, LLC, consulting groups that are collaborating with Thunderbird on the program. “This program will provide the players with very valuable, foundational information into the business world.”