Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Universities Target MBA Programs Toward Professional Athletes


At the University of Miami, there's a new executive MBA program. Many of the students already have multimillion-dollar contracts, and you could imagine professors having to fight the urge to collect autographs. Here's reporter Kenny Malone from member station WLRN.


PARSU PARASURAMAN: OK. So, as we saw before the break, one of the big things that...

KENNY MALONE, BYLINE: About 40 grad students are packed in for Dr. Parsu Parasuraman’s marketing lecture today.


PARASURAMAN: Have any of you experienced anything like this?

MALONE: A hand goes up in the back row.



MALONE: Twenty-six-year-old Torrey Smith.


TORREY SMITH: When we arrive at hotel, sometimes you'll see a sign that says, welcome whatever team to...

MALONE: Unlike typical grad students, Torrey Smith just signed a $40 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Touchdown - Torrey Smith.

MALONE: And across the room, a tall guy raises his hand.


TRENT EDWARDS: Have you seen the Lincoln car commercials with Matthew McConaughey?

MALONE: This guy is Trent Edwards.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Edward puts it right on the money.

MALONE: Edwards has been a quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills.


EDWARDS: Yeah, Yeah. You even may not know...

MALONE: In the row behind Trent Edwards, the Miami Dolphins' 310-pound offensive lineman Jason Fox takes notes by hand. Pro Bowl punter Brandon Fields sits in the front row wearing flip-flops. This is the inaugural class of the University of Miami's Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes - definitely an emphasis on athletes here. Forty of the 43 people in this class are playing or have played in the National Football League.

T. SMITH: I mean, everyone knows NFL stands for not for long.

MALONE: Torrey Smith just finished his fourth season. The NFL says the typical player only lasts six years. Torrey and his wife, Chanel, are both at Miami getting MBAs. They have a foundation that works with kids in the Baltimore area. Chanel says she and her husband want to be more involved with the business side of things.

CHANEL SMITH: We've been learning, especially in accounting - we're like, oh, that's what that balance sheet meant. Because before, they would just send us all the financial stuff. And we're looking like, you know, we do not how to read this.

T. SMITH: I understood the basics - what's coming in, what's going out. But actually kind of going through it during this time period - and, you know, with them teaching us, it's helped us.

MALONE: The NFL offers some business classes with several schools, including Stanford, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. But since 2011, at least three NFL-centric MBA programs have popped up around the country at George Washington University, at Indiana University and now the University of Miami. This is an 18-month program which is scheduled around the NFL season and includes classes to help players develop their brand.

GENE ANDERSON: We thought that was the best market for us to start with for a variety of reasons.

MALONE: Gene Anderson is dean of UM's School of Business Administration. He says the world of MBA programs is crowded, and a lot of schools are trying out niche programs focused on sustainability, for example, or health care or a program targeted to professional football players.

ANDERSON: In part, it was a really attractive market for us because so many of the NFL players already have undergraduate degrees.

MALONE: In 2009, the New York Times reported that half of all NFL players graduated from college, compared to 21 percent in the NBA. It's about 4 percent in Major League Baseball, according to Fox Sports. That has a lot to do with each league's drafting rules. Baseball will take players straight out of high school. The NBA makes athletes wait one year after graduating. The NFL makes players wait three years - a lot more time to go to college. The NFL graduation statistics made fewer headlines than something Sports Illustrated reported that same year - that three-quarters of NFL players wind up in financial trouble after they've been retired for two years.

SANTANA MOSS: No, I fell in that trap also. So you can't say that I haven't.

MALONE: Santana Moss isn't retired just yet, but he says he has been burned financially. The wide receiver grew up in Miami, was a superstar at the University of Miami and was a first-round draft pick by the New York Jets in 2001. He says over his 14-year career, he can't even remember all the times people approached him with seemingly good business opportunities.

MOSS: I'm glad that I'm able to be able to - you know, have went through some of those things. And now I'm looking forward to, like, the future, when I have my nephews and my sons to follow behind me doing some of these things or whatever they might do in the future that have to deal with money. I'm able to be able to, you know, recognize some of the pitfalls that they might, you know, fall into.

MALONE: Plus, Moss says, if he's ever up for a coaching job or whatever comes next, he hopes this graduate degree will give him an edge. That's assuming the 69 NFL touchdowns, a Pro Bowl and a spot in the University of Miami's Sports Hall of Fame aren't good enough. For NPR News, I'm Kenny Malone in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenny Malone
Kenny Malone is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money podcast. Before that, he was a reporter for WNYC's Only Human podcast. Before that, he was a reporter for Miami's WLRN. And before that, he was a reporter for his friend T.C.'s homemade newspaper, Neighborhood News.