The University of Wisconsin announced on Thursday that it will pay its athletes up to $25,000 as a graduating bonus after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2021 that colleges cannot be limited in giving educated-related compensation to their student-athletes.
In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Alston that the NCAA’s rules limiting education-related compensation violated the Sherman Act, which paved the way for Wisconsin to enact this bonus plan. Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh said in a press release that the university made its decision as soon as Alston was decided.
“As soon as the Supreme Court ruling was determined, we knew we wanted to commit the full allotment to our student-athletes,” McIntosh said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we can provide our athletes with a significant amount of money to start their post-graduate lives.”
There are currently only 22 out of 130 FBS-level schools with plans to pay students for academic-related expenses in the coming year.
McIntosh also noted that the program is rooted in ensuring that Wisconsin’s student-athletes are given a high-quality education.
“Our approach is weighted heavily toward graduation because that is ultimately what we are here for. We want student-athletes to leave Wisconsin with a college degree,” he added. “I want our approach to reinforce that becoming a UW graduate sets our student-athletes apart and is something they can leverage into a prosperous future.”
An attorney who argued on behalf of plaintiffs in the Alston case recently told ESPN that he predicts more colleges will soon begin similar efforts.
“The competitive market will emerge and we fully expect everyone will have these in the near future,” Jeffrey Kessler told the outlet. “If not for COVID, I think it would have happened more quickly. … With the combination of the educational aid and NIL, it’s hard to not see that the welfare of athletes today is significantly advanced to where it was prior to the Alston decision.”
Wisconsin’s women’s soccer coach, Paula Wilkins, hailed the announcement for the benefits it will bring her players and future players.
“This is a game-changer for Wisconsin,” Wilkins said. “For me to be able to offer every athlete, including walk-ons, this award money can’t be understated. 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.”