The National Football League Players Association this month launched a partnership with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business to provide first-of-its-kind customized introductory to graduate-level educational programs to current and former NFL players.
The university began working on the program with the NFLPA about a year ago, school officials said. The relationship was inspired by Tim Fort, an IU business professor who had worked with the NFLPA and its members on a similar program at George Washington University, where he worked prior to coming to Bloomington in 2013 to teach business law and ethics.
The Kelley School will offer NFL players what league officials are calling a unique model that will guide them from initial career development through professional and certificate programs and ultimately to a Master of Science or Master of Business Administration degree.
While the NFLPA has a variety of programs for post-career education, IU is the only school to work with the NFLPA to tailor MS and MBA programs for current and former NFL players.
The NFLPA has helped facilitate player participation in the George Washington program, but did not officially partner in the program like it does at IU.
“The Kelley School made sense for our players for a number of reasons,” said NFLPA Communications Manager Jilane Rodgers. “It’s annually ranked in the top handful of MBA programs. Perhaps more importantly, the staff was energetic from our first meeting and truly understood the need to tailoring programs for players.”
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the IU program will help NFL players become “knowledgeable about the business of football and put them on the right path to succeed off the field.”
Among the tools that will be available is the Kelley School’s Me Inc. program, which enables participants to gain a better understanding of their goals and identifies a structured path toward attaining them. The program includes career coaching and career services.
After completing the initial career development program, players may continue and enroll in online, noncredit programs on specialty topics such as personal finance, real estate, wealth management and entrepreneurship.
Upon completing a noncredit professional program, players interested in developing more expertise will be able to enroll in a four-course certificate program. Many players will be able to directly enroll in the credit-bearing certificate programs, Rodgers said.
Credits earned through the certificate programs will be transferable toward a 30-credit Master of Science degree or a 45-credit MBA. The programs will include a combination of online and on-site classes at IU’s Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses.
Those in the NFLPA-Kelley MBA program also will have opportunity to participate in the school’s global immersion courses, which give students opportunities to deal with challenges faced by businesses in an emerging market. Currently, the program is undertaking projects in India, Myanmar, Botswana, Ghana and South Africa.
All graduates of the NFLPA-Kelley programs who are interested in pursuing corporate careers will receive support from the same career services available to other Kelley graduates.
The Kelley School has offered educational programs to corporate-sponsored students for 15 years. Clients include Fortune 500 firms such as General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Ingersoll-Rand, John Deere and Cummins.
The NFLPA this month began marketing the IU curriculum to its members, and IU officials said they should know the demand for the program within three months.
“We think we could have 25 to 30 [NFL] players per year in the MBA program alone,” said Ash Soni, executive dean for academic programs at the Kelley School. “The other, less intensive, programs could see a lot more players.”
Andrew “Buddy” Baker, founder of Indianapolis-based Exclusive Sports Group and a registered agent who represents several NFL players, expects the program to be in high demand.
“Professional sports has become big business, and athletes these days have a lot of business opportunities and options—both while they play and after they play,” Baker said. “I’ve known several [NFL] players who have gotten MBAs to pursue various business opportunities, so interest in this program could be quite high.”
The good reputation of the IU Kelley School should help the program take off, Baker said.
“The NFLPA only partners with elite programs,” Baker said.