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The UAA is ramping up efforts to educate student-athletes about personal finances.

Saturday July 26, 2014Dollars and Sense: UAA Takes Proactive Approach with Student-Athlete Financial Symposium

The UAA is ramping up efforts to educate student-athletes about personal finances.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If you follow professional sports closely, you know the numbers are often mind-boggling.

And you may have noticed this, too -- some of those enormous figures involve several former Gators recently.

Earlier this month, former UF basketball player Chandler Parsons, the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, signed a three-year, $46 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. A second-round pick three years ago by Houston, Mavs owner Mark Cuban considers Parsons a future All-Star, snagging him away from the Rockets.

“It was a no-brainer for me to sign that contract as soon as possible,’’ Parsons told The Dallas Morning News.

In June, former UF offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey became the NFL’s highest-paid center when he inked a five-year, $44 million deal with the Steelers. And in May, former UF All-American cornerback Joe Haden signed a five-year, 67.5 million contract extension with Cleveland, making him one of the highest-paid defensive backs in NFL history.

Parsons, Pouncey and Haden are among a select group of former UF athletes now earning the kind of money few of us experience during our lives. They are not alone. NBA players David Lee, Joakim Noah and Al Horford – all products of Billy Donovan’s Gators -- rank among the league’s 50 highest-paid players.

While former Gators have gone on to earn millions in professional sports for years – Emmitt Smith, Brad Wilkerson and many more fit the bill – the University Athletic Association is ramping up efforts to help prepare student-athletes who have the potential to earn significant money during their athletic careers for the financial responsibilities ahead.

On a Friday morning in December in a meeting room on the north side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a few dozen Gators attended the inaugural UAA Student-Athlete Financial Symposium.

Those in attendance were shown segments of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Broke,” which told the story of several former professional athletes who made millions of dollars during their careers but now face various degrees of financial turbulence.

You’ve probably heard some of the stories. Former NBA player Antoine Walker in debt and legal trouble despite earning $110 million during his career. Former big-league pitcher Curt Schilling loses baseball fortune due to his company’s crash. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp with $826.04 in his bank account despite earning more than $82 million as a player.

The list goes on and on, and the Gators have not been immune. Former UF running back Fred Taylor shared his story of financial losses with Yahoo! Sports in 2012.

“People always talk about jobs and making money, but the thing that often does not get talked about is when you’ve made some money, what do you do with your money?,’’ Donovan said. “You need to have an awareness of that.”

To help in that mission, the UAA brought in five local financial advisors to speak at the symposium, take questions and perform sample exercises related to basic finances of everyday life. In addition, Ed Butowsky, managing partner of Chapwood Investments, led a discussion via Skype from his Dallas-area office.

Butowsky, an internationally recognized expert in the wealth management industry – he was included in the “Broke” documentary and featured in a Sports Illustrated article in 2009 about athletes who go broke – was scheduled to attend in person but inclement weather in Dallas grounded his flight to UF.

Still, he made his points in a passionate presentation. Butowsky’s top message was a simple one and worth heeding if you make $50,000 a year or $5 million.

“The way to ensure you don’t go broke is, No. 1, your spending,’’ Butowsky said. “Because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot.”

Of course, with so many professional athletes becoming overnight millionaires in their early 20s, an age when most of us are just starting toward a career path, their wallets often stay open more than closed. They buy luxury cars, purchase oversized homes, give money to family and friends, pay their agents, and travel and party like the money faucet will never be turned off.

And then reality hits.

They start to lose their edge on the field, the contracts dry up, and suddenly, they are back to the start line financially.

Bad investments -- Butowsky cites bad real estate deals as a particularly nasty culprit -- are another costly mistake many professional athletes make.

Former Gators running back Terry Jackson, now UF’s director of player and community relations, shared a story about how he lost a chunk of his earnings from a seven-year NFL career with the 49ers due to investments gone wrong.

“I made some decisions, not all of them wise,’’ Jackson said. “I took some risks. Take a proactive role in your financial life right now.”

The group of student-athletes in attendance included football players, baseball players, swimmers, track and field athletes and several members of other teams on campus. While basketball, football and baseball produce the most professional athletes from college campuses, Olympic sport athletes such as former UF swimmer Elizabeth Beisel often cash in on endorsement deals to supplement earnings won through competition.

Patric Young

Beisel and former UF basketball player Patric Young attended the symposium.

Young is a prime example of the audience the UAA wants to reach. He signed his first NBA contract last week with the New Orleans Pelicans, reportedly a two-year deal for $1.35 million -- certainly a nice way to start life after college but not the kind of money to afford to buy multiple houses and luxury cars and expect to thrive financially.

Young considered the seminar a worthy endeavor.

“There were a lot of things that really stood out to me,’’ he said. “You need to be careful with the investments you make early in your life and try to build a solid foundation with your money and the people around you. When they explain how it all goes down, it makes sense. Once all that money comes around, everyone’s perception of you changes.”

Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs, organized the event. He said the plan is to make the symposium an annual event as another way for the UAA to educate student-athletes for life after they leave UF.

“We talked as a senior staff about the impact that movie had on us,’’ Howard said. “That’s where the idea started. We wanted to get a diverse group not just focused on football. There are a number of sports here where people can go on and play professionally. Any time you have an opportunity to go professional, we ask the coaches to nominate student-athletes.

“We had great feedback from the coaches and great feedback from student-athletes.”

UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley quickly backed the idea.

“These young men and women have a chance to get involved in some pretty serious financial opportunities,’’ Foley said. “Having some understanding of how they should approach that – our business is littered with young men and women that have made really bad decisions when it comes to finances – we don’t want that for our student-athletes.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be their money, their contract, their future and they’re going to have to figure out some things themselves. Part of our job is to provide some resources to help them figure some stuff out. I’m not sure we’ve done of enough of it in the past and we need to change that. We did change that.”

As more and more of his players have gone on to NBA riches in recent years, Donovan said he does talk to them about their finances when they come back to visit. He doesn’t offer advice on what they should or shouldn’t do with their money, but asks them if they are making wise decisions and whether they have people they trust around them.

He also discusses money matters with current players who have an opportunity earn money playing professionally.

With the UAA taking a more proactive approach in educating its student-athletes about personal finances, Donovan considers it a win-win for UF’s athletic department.

“When you look at professional athletes, for whatever reason, there has been a lot of mismanagement of funds,’’ Donovan said. “I think doing that and providing those kinds of educational services for our guys is a good thing. They have all these grand schemes and maybe don’t realize they need to look and save some.”


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