The New York Times: For College Athletes, Financial Coaching From Retired Pros
September 16, 2016
By Paul Sullivan
They are two former professional athletes whose prospects started out quite differently.
Bart Scott went undrafted coming out of Southern Illinois University but ended up playing 11 seasons in the National Football League, and made it to the Pro Bowl in 2006.
Antoine Walker, who led the University of Kentucky to a National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship in 1996, was a first-round draft pick and won a National Basketball Association championship in 2006 with the Miami Heat.
When it came to money, the two men ended up differently as well. Mr. Scott’s last contract with the New York Jets was worth $48 million. He managed his money well and is now a commentator for CBS Sports. Mr. Walker made $108 million during his career, then lost the majority of it. He filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010, just two years after retiring from the N.B.A.
The two are now working as consultants to a financial education program for college athletes that was developed by Morgan Stanley’s global sports and entertainment group.
Mr. Walker says he sees his work in the program as a way to make something good out of losing all his money. “I try to be open and transparent,” he said in an interview. “I tell them how I lost my money. I tell them the things that I did and did not do. It’s the only way to be.”
The lessons, though aimed at college athletes, are universal for all college students. While the program gives financial advice to the few who may turn professional and reap millions of dollars, its focus is more on the many athletes who will have to adapt to life outside a big-time college sports program where everything isn’t paid for.
Chevy Graham, a senior who plays cornerback for the University of Kansas football team and attended one of the sessions, said Mr. Walker’s story stuck with him. “It was given to his family, the people around him, bad business ventures, cars,” Mr. Graham said. “It was shocking to see that amount of funds being wasted and distributed in that manner.”
The financial options for that small subset of college athletes who may turn pro are certainly different from those of their peers.
Kenton Adeyemi, who was a defensive lineman at the University of Connecticut, has tried out with two N.F.L. teams, playing four preseason games with the Cleveland Browns.
“They did this one skit where your mom called and asked to borrow $5,000. What are you going to say?” Mr. Adeyemi said of the financial education program. “The kids who aren’t in the revenue sports — like a rower — were thinking what is in this for me? But they’re showing various levels of income and how your money should be managed.”
He was eventually cut from the Browns. And if he doesn’t get called up this fall, he will need to use his economics and political science degree to look for a far less-lucrative job, just like other graduates from the class of 2016.
Either way, he said, the seminar at the University of Connecticut — where more than 90 percent of its 700 student athletes participated — helped him feel better prepared.
“As an undrafted guy, I didn’t have this, but you have first-round draft picks who have millions of dollars in their pockets,” Mr. Adeyemi said.
The program is grounded in what it calls the seven financial pitfalls for athletes.
“It’s not what is a stock or bond,” said Drew Hawkins, the head of the global sports and entertainment group at Morgan Stanley. “It starts at segments below that. Some of the initial information is around the basics — put a budget together, how to save, what’s good credit and bad credit, making smart decisions with their dollars and resources.”
To that end, the program dwells on budgeting — or as it puts it to the students: Don’t spend everything you earn and then some.
“I remember Bart Scott saying, ‘You don’t think LeBron James has a budget?’” said Reese Randall, a running back on the University of Kansas football team.
Mr. Randall, who has no scholarship and expects his football career to end at Kansas, said Mr. Scott’s exercises on budgeting resonated the most with his teammates.
“He had us go through a stack of cards on what you’d invest money in,” he said. “An emergency fund was the first thing you’d think about, real estate was the last. You had to sit down when you had them in the wrong order. Of the 100 people, only four had them all right.”
Mr. Scott said his own experience in the N.F.L. taught him how to budget before he signed his free agent contract. “I was one of those league minimum guys,” he said. “I made $225,000, $275,000, $300,000 then $600,000. There are going to be guys who can do a lot more than you can because they make more money. Leave the competition on the field and live within your means.”
That advice could apply to any college graduate. Of course, athletes with scholarships have an advantage over many other students who have to take on debt to pay for school. Athletes are going to start their careers without that burden.
One reason that universities are supporting these programs is the changes instituted by the N.C.A.A. Starting last year, the N.C.A.A. said that colleges could pay athletes the true cost of attendance, which added transportation and personal expenses to their scholarships.
That money was paid directly to student athletes, leaving it up to them to manage it. At Kansas, that amounts to $3,650 a year. At Connecticut, it ranges from $2,800 to $3,300.
“Part of that legislation was the suggestion that education around that be provided to student athletes,” said Ellen Tripp, associate athletic director in charge of academic support and student development at UConn.
These athletes, like students whose parents pay all of their expenses, haven’t had to pay rent, buy food or worry about all the necessary costs of living on their own.
“Since 98 percent of the student athletes are not going to go on to be professional athletes, you could argue that all college students need the same training and conversations that we provide to this body,” Mr. Hawkins, of Morgan Stanley, said.
Allison Schaaf, a senior on the rowing team at Kansas, said that what stuck with her was the conversation on purchases that people need versus those they want.
“They had a stack of fake money, and they gave you options to buy a car — a sedan or a big S.U.V.,” she said. “Whatever one you picked, you had to give a chunk of your money away. It really hit home. Some people wanted to live lavishly, but they didn’t know how much it would cost them.”
Steven Israel, who played 10 seasons in the N.F.L. and is now a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch’s private banking and investment group, has conducted mentoring programs for college students.
He said that when he was an economics major at the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, he calculated what kind of salary he could expect right out of school. “At best, it looked like I was going to be making high 40s at an entry-level job, and I said that’s good,” Mr. Israel said. “Then, I said what if I take care of my business on the football field and I’m drafted between slots 17 and 50? That looked completely different.”
He was drafted 30th and received a $500,000 signing bonus. “That’s a lot of money, but after taxes and living in California, it went down,” he said. “Right away, I started putting money away.”
Perhaps the biggest piece of advice that the former players offer is not overtly financial but practical: The idea that the sport that has occupied so much of their life will probably come to an end when they leave college, as does college itself.
“I tell them the first thing I did when I retired was I got therapy,” Mr. Scott said. “Every day of my life since I was 8 years old, I had football. Then one day it’s gone. There is no senior circuit for football players.”
And the same can be said for students this fall preparing for life after college.
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