After nearly 35 years of success with the NFLPA, the MLS Players Association wanted to give a partnership with IU’s Kelley School of Business a try.
IU’s Kelley School of Business has worked with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) for nearly 35 years. Since then, around 120 current and former athletes have earned a master’s degree or undergraduate certificate through Kelley.
“The life of a professional athlete is very demanding,” said Dr. Rich Magjuka, a professor at IU’s Kelley School of Business. “They have very, very regimented schedules, so really an online program is about the only way they’d be able to pursue their education while still a current athlete.”
Because of the success with the NFLPA, the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) wanted to give a partnership with Kelley a try.
“I was excited to start those conversations once I got to the MLSPA,” said Connor Ford, director of player programs for the MLSPA and formerly with the NFLPA during its partnership with IU. “I know a lot of players on our side are excited and interested in continuing their education. Especially in the MLS, the season is long. Creating an opportunity where they don’t need to be somewhere in-person to really make some progress on their pursuits off the field was important.”
Houston Dynamo defender Tim Parker, who is in his eighth year in the professional soccer league and second in Houston, said he plans to enroll at IU in the spring.
“Houston has been great,” Parker said. “It’s definitely a much different climate than I’m used to.”
Parker studied finance during his time at St. John’s University in New York. Now, however, he plans to further his education at IU.
“I feel like this is a no-brainer, where I am at in my life right now, to take the opportunity and to continue my education,” Parker said. “I enjoy meeting new people and getting new experiences, so the opportunity to work with other students that are from different backgrounds is also really cool to me.”
Upon the end of his playing days, Parker said he is still weighing his options, professionally.
“That’s why getting my MBA is something I’m really looking forward to,” Parker said, “just because it will open a lot more doors and give me a lot more opportunities, in terms of finding the right fit when I’m done playing.”
According to Magjuka, this online MBA program is the same coursework and program offered to other students. Athletes must be accepted to the program just like all other students.
“Business skills are extremely important,” Magjuka said.
“They also don’t hold back from exposing them to the rigors of the program,” Ford said. “They are in with students from all different backgrounds.”
Additionally, however, the online program includes some flexibility to accommodate players’ schedules.
“Last year, as an example, I was teaching a class, and a student sent me an email and said, ‘Can I have an extension for a paper?’ I was already going to say yes, but then, he added, ‘I’m playing in the Super Bowl this weekend.’ So, the answer was yes,” Magjuka said.
Using online teaching, Kelley’s MBA program allows these students to train, play and get a degree simultaneously. IU also offers players a certificate program if they did not complete undergraduate coursework and do not qualify for graduate school.
“Almost every NFLPA player who has enrolled in the certificate program, upon completion of the certificate program, has decided to pursue an MBA from us,” Magjuka said.
Enrollment for past and present MLS players will open later this year, according to IU faculty.
“I do know that we already have two students who are currently playing who would like to join us in the winter quarter, which begins in November,” Magjuka said.