Georgia Tech to award bonuses to athletes for professional development

Georgia Tech running back Dontae Smith tries to get away from Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson during a game in 2021. Starting in the fall semester, Tech athletes will be eligible to receive up to $5,980 per academic year in cash through an academic-performance rewards program that became part of NCAA legislation in 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

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Georgia Tech running back Dontae Smith tries to get away from Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson during a game in 2021. Starting in the fall semester, Tech athletes will be eligible to receive up to $5,980 per academic year in cash through an academic-performance rewards program that became part of NCAA legislation in 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Starting in the fall semester, Georgia Tech athletes will be eligible to receive up to $5,980 per academic year in cash through an academic-performance rewards program that became part of NCAA legislation in 2020. The awards will be based on participation in the athletic department’s Total Person Program and community service, athletic director Todd Stansbury said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Tech will join a growing number of athletic departments taking part in the incentive program, which became a permissible NCAA activity as a result of the landmark NCAA vs. Alston case, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court and found that the NCAA and its member schools were in violation of antitrust law for suppressing the compensation for athletes who generate billions of dollars for colleges annually.

For a Tech athlete who is able to earn the full $5,980 each year over his or her career, that would mean an additional $23,920 over four years that previously was not available.

According to an ESPN report in April, 22 of the 130 FBS schools had set up benefits programs for the 2021-22 academic year, including ACC schools Clemson, Miami and North Carolina, but more are expected to join. N.C. State, Pitt and Virginia Tech have made public their plans to roll out academic incentive programs in the fall.

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Schools have varied in the standards set to earn the payments, with the bar as low as maintaining academic eligibility. Others have bonuses tied to GPA thresholds. Tech’s is different in that it will be tied to participation in the department’s personal and career development program, such as career networking events.

Stansbury is a staunch advocate of the Total Person Program, founded by former Tech AD Homer Rice, for its capacity to help prepare Tech athletes for life after athletics. The department coined the term “Everyday Champion” to reflect the vision for developing Jackets athletes both competitively and professionally.

“We’re going to tie those educational expenses to that programming with the idea that it’ll be like becoming an Eagle Scout,” Stansbury said. “You pick up a bunch of badges, you’re an Eagle Scout. In our case, you’re an ‘Everyday Champion,’ and there will be an incentive attached to that.”

Tech has allotted approximately $2.6 million in its budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which would cover payments of the full $5,980 to 435 athletes, which is roughly the number of all athletes at Tech.

While significant, the payments that will soon be available to Tech athletes pale in comparison to the compensation that some of their coaches earn for their teams’ academic performance. Clauses in the contracts of men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner, football coach Geoff Collins and women’s basketball coach Nell Fortner enable them to earn bonuses of up to $200,000, $175,000 and $30,000, respectively, based on their team’s academic performance.

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