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Executive Education

The business school touchdown

By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- One thing that modern-day sports stars are very good at -- apart from the obvious -- is making money. Unfortunately, too many prove less adept at keeping hold of it.

While the old stereotype of the embittered former star spending his twilight years running a ramshackle bar or restaurant, regaling customers about the glory days, is largely defunct, there is instead a litany of tales about sports people losing considerable sums in badly-judged business ventures.

Some sportsmen and women have also had well documented problems paying their tax on time: To take just tennis, in 2002 Boris Becker was convicted of tax evasion while Steffi Graf's father served a jail term for mishandling her tax affairs.

Luckily, more than 100 players in the U.S. National Football League (NFL), are now less likely to suffer such problems, thanks to four leading business schools.

They are attending a series of specially-arranged executive education seminars this month and in April at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, as it is officially known, is organized by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to help athletes prepare for life after football.

"This program helps smooth the transition from locker room to the business world and enables players to use football as a pathway to a second successful career," said Professor W. Carl Kester, Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs at the Harvard school.

Sports field to boardroom

"A critical part of this rigorous program involves helping players hone their business judgment so that they can recognize the difference between attractive and unattractive business opportunities."

The curriculum includes topics such as financial analysis and valuation, marketing strategies, real estate investment and -- very importantly -- legal and tax issues.

During a four-week break between the two modules, players will research a business concept or entrepreneurial venture and then discuss the idea with faculty members on their return to campus.

This is the third year of the program and 116 current and former players have enrolled, against 112 last year and 66 in 2005.

Among this year's intake are New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, his Chicago Bears counterpart Brian Griese and Matt Light of the New England Patriots.

"I'm always looking for ways to better myself whether it is on the field or off the field," Brees said ahead of the first set of lessons.

"I see myself starting a business or multiple businesses when I'm done playing so this program will give me a foundation to build upon. It is great that the NFL puts together programs like this for its players."

Players' representatives are keen for their charges to acquire more learning, whether in business or elsewhere. Under the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, players can be reimbursed up to $15,000 for education expenses at an accredited institution.

Last month, some NFL representatives were at another business school, Sloan, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, this was for a seminar on something far more familiar -- how to win.

Executives from basketball, baseball and hockey also attended to learn about how to introduce a more analytical approach to their personnel and business operations.

Among key questions addressed by the conference were why are some sports teams and leagues tend to be more successful than others, and how business-style analysis methods can help teams decide on drafting and trades, not to mention areas such as ticket pricing.


Drew Brees with his former team, the San Diego Chargers.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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