During his long, drawn-out public address and question-and-answer session, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany raised a possibility that would truly benefit the student-athlete.
That would be the formation of a lifetime education trust, specifically money that would allow athletes who did not finish school to return and complete their degree requirements. While full-cost stipends and the possibility of creating a fourth NCAA division have dominated the discussion at media days, this proposal could have the most lasting and beneficial impact.
From Delany's address, via ASAP Sports:
Now, many schools provide some additional support. But what I'd like to see is an explicit commitment by higher education through the conferences for funding and also to the athlete at the time they sign, that if you come up short within the four years, if you go professional, if you drop out, that we'll stand behind you so when you're ready to get serious or when you have the time, we'll support your college education degree for your lifetime.
Athletes, like a lot of regular college students, are forced to leave for a myriad of reasons. Now, with Delany's plan, they would be allowed to return when they felt the time was right. Whether those issues are health, family, new babies or going pro, these kids would be, when they are ready, allowed to get that college education.
This should be a win-win situation for Delany. For the people who are anti-stipend and view the scholarship and a free education as ample payment, this measure would ensure that players could access that education, even at a later date. For those who support athletes,, especially in football or basketball, leaving early to go pro, this would help guarantee that they could go back should their careers not work out.
*It must be noted that the current CBA in the NFL does afford tuition reimbursement for players in the NFL, as found on page 227 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Delany's plan could work in addition to, as supplement for, in lieu of or with the NFL reimbursing the schools instead of the players, depending on when the player returned to school and the cost.
The real point is that education will be made available for the players to go back and get. The "safety net" for athletes will be extended instead of yanked away by a decision to go pro or an issue that results in their withdrawal.
It is a chance for an athlete who made some immature decisions to go back and get his education after taking a few knocks in the real world and realizing how much it matters. It is a chance for an athlete who was forced to drop out of school to go back and get a degree. It is a chance for someone to graduate and work toward that better life.
College sports are a great vehicle to expose athletes to many things in life and help push them toward where they want to be. This measure by Delany would help continue that process in a big way.