Rewarding athletes for academic achievement fits Clemson’s culture like a glove
Clemson football is one of twenty-two NCAA FBS schools that is take advantage of a new program which allows them to reward their student-athletes for their achievements in the classroom.
The NCAA changed authorized the new program in August 2020 in response to a federal judge’s warrant, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2021. This decision paved the way for NIL as well as this new program. The program allows universities to compensate athletes up to $5,980 per year.
Currently, only twenty-two FCS programs have announced their intention to reward athletes for their academic performance. Twenty-one of them attend Power Five conferences, with Connecticut being the only Group of Five program.
Clemson, North Carolina and Miami are the only ACC schools participating in the program. The SEC leads with nine of the fourteen participating schools. They are followed by the Big 12 (5), PAC-12 (3) and ACC. The Big Ten has only one participating school in Wisconsin.
Twenty programs plan to join the program in the future, but will not pay academic awards this school year. Nearly a quarter of FCS schools indicated that they had not made a final decision about joining the program, so it is possible that the number of participating schools could easily double over the next few years. Only fifteen schools surveyed responded that they would not consider paying academic bonuses to student-athletes.
Coach Dabo Swinney has repeatedly stated that he is against the professionalization of college athletics. According to him, this would have a negative impact on the student’s academic experience. The new NCAA program doesn’t pay for play, but rather for academic achievement, which inspires student-athletes to succeed in the classroom. Although the program applies to all student-athletes, not just football players, Coach Swinney is an important driver of Clemson’s culture. Given that the new program matches its message of prioritizing academics, it’s obvious that Clemson would participate if possible.
A focus on academics was part of Clemson’s culture long before Coach Swinney took charge of the football program in 2009. The Clemson set the success rate was 91% for 2004-2007, which was third nationally among public institutions. Their graduation pass rate for 2011-14 was calculated at 95%which tied them for first in the ACC and third nationally.
Hopefully we will see a significant increase in the number of participating universities nationally, but particularly within the ACC. The ACC and the Big Ten have traditionally featured academics as a strong component of their identity, but they currently have one of the lowest turnouts.
Many fans perceive sports programs to be swimming with cash on hand and assume that all programs should be able to afford to participate. The fact that only one Five Eyes program decided to participate suggests otherwise. Five Eyes athletic departments often don’t have the budgets comparable to schools with large-scale football programs. As we see in this tweet regarding Oklahoma State’s involvement, the money has to come from somewhere.
Several other schools may intend to institute the program, but need to determine exactly how it will be funded.
The maximum amount of money that can be awarded for academic achievement may also increase over time. The original $5,980 was calculated based on the comparable value of athletic awards a player could accrue in a year, such as individual player awards or placement on the all-conference team. We can assume that the relative values of these sports achievements will increase from year to year, so the maximum reward for academics should also do so.