Starting December, Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) campus will be hosting several legends of basketball—not as motivational speakers, professors, or coaches, but as actual students.
The school rolled out the first program of its kind geared to address a long-troubling trend of basketball players choosing a life of professional ball over completing higher education, only to find diminished work opportunities in the real world after their careers leave the court.
At least nine retired players have signed up for the university’s first round of classes, including influential center Wayne “Tree” Rollins. Before hanging up his sneaks in 1995, Tree was up there with the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The four-weekend Life After Retirement: Growing Successful Business Ventures certificate program—otherwise known as Biz Bootcamp—will teach ex-players the fundamentals of planning and starting up their own business, which are skills they can use both at work as well as in their personal lives. Even cooler, students who successfully start a business up will be invited to teach the next batch of alumni.
The idea to create a certificate program first came to FAMU staff when George Tinsley, a former AMA player, was speaking as the board president of the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s (NBRPA) at the university, outlining the troubles that former pro athletes deal with when they end their careers. Now, FAMU’s program is officially backed by the NBRPA.
These days, the challenges retired NBA players face have cropped up in tabloid headlines more often than in serious discussion, which is alarming. Allen Iverson’s recent retirement was marred by news that he’d gone completely broke. He’d never gotten a degree, having left Georgetown after two years.
Probably less than half of NBA players hold a degree, and according to a more scientific measure by Sports Illustrated, over 60 per cent of NBA players file for bankruptcy within five years of quitting the sport, often due to low levels of financial literacy. Those numbers are pretty scary, which makes programs like this all the more important for players who don’t necessarily plan their financial lives past stardom.
In some heartening news, NBRPA has also hinted that at least two other institutions have started considering similar programs.