Financial literacy

WVU Partners with Robinhood for First-Ever Financial Literacy Program for Student-Athletes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sports Illustrated in 2009 estimated that 78 percent of NFL players were bankrupt or in serious financial difficulty within two years of retirement. Up to 60% of NBA players have suffered a similar fate five years after their playing career ended, the magazine writes.

Naomi Boyd, West Virginia University’s associate dean for outreach, innovation and engagement for the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, cited an even more alarming figure of 85% bankruptcy for professional athletes.

After a chat with WVU alum and business school graduate John Gianola, and some additional talks with the men’s basketball assistant coach Eric MartinBoyd wanted to do something educationally to help empower student-athletes at West Virginia University.

So, about 10 years ago, the business school developed exploratory programming to at least begin the process of educating WVU student-athletes about the importance of financial literacy.

Amy Pridemore, director of the Center for Financial Literacy and Education at John Chambers College of Business and Economics, set up a financial literacy course two semesters ago for WVU student-athletes, and it’s through her efforts she was able to connect with Mary Elizabeth Taylor, Vice President of External Affairs of Robinhood Markets.

From their initial conversations grew today’s unique partnership with Robinhood, the stock trading app, to establish the nation’s first Division I financial education program for student-athletes. The official announcement was made on Wednesday afternoon inside the Hartley Club at Milan’s Puskar stadium.

Dan Gallagher, director of legal, compliance and general affairs at Robinhood Markets, was on hand to announce the new partnership. WVU President E. Gordon Gee was among those who made remarks on behalf of the University.

“I want to say that the Robinhood Foundation has done a tremendous job, and that’s a really good thing because we’re the first sports program in the country to have this financial literacy program,” Gee noted. “We want this to represent a signature of greatness as to who we are as an institution – that we care enough about our student-athletes and we care enough about what they want to do with their lives.”

Robinhood co-founder Baiju Bhatt and Joe Manchin, a U.S. senator and 1970 WVU business school graduate, spoke via video messaging.

Former WVU director of athletics and former NCAA executive vice president for regulatory affairs Oliver Luck was also on hand for Wednesday’s announcement. As a former student-athlete, professional athlete, and lifelong athletics administrator, Luck offers unique insight into the current financial climate for athletes.
“The opportunities today are completely different from when I was a student-athlete,” Luck said. “When I signed my first professional contract, I was able to go to my parents and they were able to help me understand this, but not all children have this opportunity.

“Not many guys talked about money in professional locker rooms when I was playing in the NFL, but there are definitely a lot of bad stories about guys who weren’t prepared and didn’t understand the difference between a general partnership and a limited partnership,” Luck continued. “There are relatively very simple things that every young person should understand before they leave school and start working. Now (because of the name and image and likeness) that’s increased from four years to student-athletes because they have the opportunity to generate very significant income for themselves.”

Gallager said he previously worked at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and saw many high-profile casualties during his tenure. “As soon as they make money, it’s very public, and all these scoundrels come out and rip them off,” he explained.

Gallagher said about a year and a half ago, Robinhood had a vision to create an external affairs team to look for ways to help support the kind of programs Boyd and Pridemore were trying to establish at WVU.

“So we sent Mary Elizabeth and said, ‘Go find some really good things to do here,'” Gallagher joked.

“We’ve seen explosive growth at Robinhood with 23 million funded accounts, many of which are athletes,” Gallagher said. “It’s an important time to do that, and it’s an important time in the evolution of Robinhood to show people that we’re not just some Silicon Valley upstart looking to make a buck.

“We really care about ourselves, and it’s a great constituency to focus on. For us, this will serve as a model for other programs that we can roll out across the country. It can be – and should be – a point of pride for all of you at WVU for really committing to it,” Gallagher added.

Taylor said Robinhood’s partnership with West Virginia University is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’re going to keep evolving this,” she explained. “We’re finding the right partners across the country and that’s the model, and we’re excited to move on. What really shined in this program was the story that Amy and Naomi built at from scratch. We wanted to make sure we were tapping into what was right for the specific community.”

In West Virginia University’s official announcement, the school said the financial education course will be made available to all student-athletes beginning in the 2022-23 school year. The course will be required for all WVU student-athletes with scholarships and optional for those who are not.

“We have always made it a priority to provide these types of educational services and career path seminars to our athletes in the past, but this goes even further to provide class credit in a
classroom setting,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons mentioned. “Preparing our student-athletes for life after college is one of our top priorities as a department.”

“Today marks the end of our exploratory process and the start of an incredible opportunity to help create mountaineers who will engage in a true educational experience that will transcend the walls of WVU and launch them into their careers,” said Boyd said.

And the timing couldn’t be better with the climate of deregulation currently overtaking the NCAA. Luck laughed when asked if he thought the university industry was prepared for what lay ahead.

“There’s a lot going on right now, and I’m not sure anyone is prepared for that. A new era has dawned and people are scrambling a bit to figure out what they can do as part of the very few regulations that still exist right now,” he said.

He added, “I am proud that my alma mater is seizing this opportunity. We are the first, and this will be the model. Congratulations to the University for their incredible vision that made this possible.”