Cash for Grades: Cal to Pay Academic Bonus to Football Team
Landmark 2021 U.S. Supreme Court decision allows schools to pay academic bonuses to student-athletes
Good grades are a big business at the University of California, Berkeley.
Beginning next fall, California football players could earn cold hard cash if they perform well in the classroom.
The university recently told ESPN it would join a cohort of at least 22 other NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision universities in making academic bonus payments to student-athletes if they meet specific academic benchmarks.
California’s decision comes after ESPN reported that head coach Justin Wilcox could earn up to $210,000 if the football team performs well academically, while the student-athletes would have earned nothing. The university’s athletic department first told the sports broadcaster it planned to pay academic bonuses but was mum on the details.
Details of the cash payouts emerged only after ESPN requested an interview with Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton, which the university declined.
What is the NCAA academic bonus?
The NCAA issued a rule change in August 2020, which allowed universities to pay each student-athlete as much as $5,980 a year to reward academic achievement. In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously signed off on the academic-bonus policy when it decided NCAA v. Alston.
Schools are not required to provide academic bonuses—cash or otherwise.
California will not be the only Pac-12 Conference member to provide academic bonuses. Colorado, Oregon and Washington will also make payments to eligible brainy student-athletes, according to ESPN.
Other schools with academic bonus payouts are Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa State, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech and Wisconsin.
Many universities expect to pay between $2 million and $3 million each year in academic bonuses to eligible student-athletes.
Some athletic departments have added additional requirements beyond good grades to earn the reward, including having a clean disciplinary record, being a scholarship player, or even having a GPA of 3.5 or higher to get the full payment.