Sports & Recreation

Pay for Play, the Right Way

UW student-athletes will receive financial awards for academic achievement.

UW Women's hockey team on the rink

UW athletes will be able to earn $5,980 per year for academic awards. Jeff Miller

In July, the UW Department of Athletics committed to providing academic-based financial awards to student-athletes for the 2022–23 school year and beyond.

Under the plan, all UW student-athletes — regardless of whether they’re on an athletic scholarship — will have the opportunity to earn up to $5,980 per year. That dollar amount represents the maximum allowable award for academic performance following the landmark NCAA v. Alston Supreme Court case last year. The court ruled that universities may not limit education-related benefits for student-athletes, opening the door to direct financial payments for academic achievement. However, the ruling allows the NCAA to cap the amount proportional to the financial value a student-athlete can receive from athletic-performance awards.

“As soon as the Supreme Court ruling was determined, we knew we wanted to commit the full allotment to our student-athletes,” says UW athletic director Chris McIntosh ’04, MS’19. “I’m really proud of the fact that we can provide our athletes with a significant amount of money to start their postgraduate lives.”

In April, ESPN reported that Wisconsin was the first Big Ten school to have a plan in place to provide academic bonus payments in 2022. At that time, only 22 of the 130 schools that ESPN surveyed had committed to such payments this year.

In addition, the UW’s approach to disbursing the payments will incentivize the completion of a degree. Student-athletes who are academically eligible for the award will receive $980 per year until their athletic eligibility has expired. Once they graduate, they will receive the additional $5,000 for each year, up to $25,000. The university’s commitment totals more than $3.8 million per year.

“This is a game changer for Wisconsin,” says women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins. “For me to be able to offer every athlete, including walk-ons, this award money can’t be [overstated]. I think about this from my own personal perspective as a former student-athlete and the impact $20,000 upon graduation would have had for setting up my future. I’m thrilled for our players.”

Published in the Winter 2022 issue


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