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No NFL Rookie Symposium, Player Education Programs

No preseason or regular season NFL games have been cancelled due to the NFL Lockout to date, but the Lockout has its first couple of victims: the rookie symposium and the joint NFL/NFLPA player education programs held annually at Ivy League universities.

Every year, all players selected in the NFL Draft are invited to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to partake in a rookie symposium.  Topics discussed at the symposium include financial planning, indoctrination into the NFL, and how to be a professional on and off the field.  This year’s rookie symposium was scheduled for June 26, 2011.  It has been called off more than a month in advance of its scheduled date.  That cannot be a good sign with regards to the Lockout ending any time soon.  More important at this point in the Lockout, though, is that drafted players gain access to their teams’ playbooks.  Most drafted players are continuing to workout privately, but are not yet learning their teams’ plays.  This could turn out to be a huge negative impact of the prolonged Lockout.

Player education programs were also scheduled for NFL players at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.  Those financial programs were scheduled for March and were also unfortunate casualties of the NFL Lockout.  In the past, sessions also took place at the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) and Stanford Graduate School of Business.  These programs have been a part of the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, which is part of the NFL and the NFLPA’s efforts to prepare players for their post-playing careers.  Roughly 100 NFL players enroll in this program per year.

We covered the Wharton program two years ago on Sports Agent Blog.  Here is some of what players missed out on in 2011:

The Wharton program focuses on a broad range of business topics, including financial analysis, entrepreneurship, real estate development, stock market investing, negotiation skills, risk management, and community reinvestment.  Attendees work on directed as well as individual real estate, entrepreneurial and personal finance projects during the month between the program’s two sessions.

Players must apply to the program; applications are judged on criteria including previous education, leadership in the community, business experience, and interest in owning or managing a business.  In addition, the cost of the program is covered.  In fact, the under the current CBA, players can be reimbursed up to $15,000 a year for education at accredited institutions.

Players have the opportunity to explore a multitude of topics and opportunities that they can look to when their days on the field are over.  Drew Brees, who previously attended the program at the Wharton School, was among the players that showed up at Stanford this year.  Despite being in the middle of a 6-year, $60 million contract with the Saints, the star quarterback has shown a dedication to preparing for life after football.  Like Brees, Jaguars offensive linemen Maurice Williams is returning to the program; after attending the Stanford program in 2007, the veteran has enrolled in this year’s program at Wharton.  But the list of attendees doesn’t just include veterans; young guns like Brady Quinn will also take part in the educational opportunity.

These programs do not make the headlines in any discussion regarding the NFL Lockout, but tend to have the potential to play a huge role in the development of NFL players off the field.  As mentioned in our story from two years, ago, the average NFL career lasts three-and-a-half seasons (depending on who you talk to).  Players need to be thinking about life after football.  The programs set up by the NFL and the NFLPA give the players the tools to start planning for the future.  Those tools were stripped away from players due to this year’s Lockout.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

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