Apr 28, 2022 - Sports

Military considers college athletic scholarships for service time

Illustration of a helmet made with a combination of a military helmet and a hockey helmet's face guard.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela and Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The U.S. military is mulling a plan that would fund college athletic scholarships in exchange for mandatory service, Sportico reports.

Why it matters: The initiative could solve two key issues: inefficient recruiting within the armed forces, and financial unease in college athletics, where non-revenue sports face increasing cuts.

By the numbers: The Pentagon has requested a record $773 billion budget for 2023, which includes $1.32 billion for recruiting and advertising, and billions more for basic training.

  • By comparison, FBS schools reported spending $653 million in scholarship costs outside of football and basketball in 2020-21.
  • Nearly 300 NCAA sports programs have been eliminated or suspended in the COVID era, which wreaked financial havoc on athletic departments.

Details: The idea is the brainchild of Dave Maloney, a former Auburn track athlete whose company, Orchestra Macrosystems, is an Air Force contractor.

  • Under his plan, the Department of Defense would offer to replace school-funded athletic scholarships for every sport other than football and basketball.
  • Those athletes would have no obligations while in school, but would be committed to a yet-to-be-determined amount of service once their college careers conclude.

The backdrop: There are already options for high school athletes interested in both college sports and military service, including competing at service academies and going through ROTC.

  • That said, service academies can only provide a limited number of opportunities for student-athletes, and the rigors of ROTC make it difficult to combine with sports.
  • Of the 27,000 Army ROTC cadets on campuses each year, roughly 500 to 700 are NCAA athletes, per the Army's recruiting arm.

State of play: Maloney says he and his paid advisers — including retired Army and Air Force generals — have discussed the plan with high-ranking military officials.

  • In a September memo that circulated around Washington, D.C., it was dubbed the Scholar-Athlete Intelligence and Leadership Program.
  • Yes, but: The proposal has not made similar inroads within college sports. The NCAA told Sportico it was unaware of it.
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