The University of Texas at Austin announced on Monday it is launching a new center to help its athletes — as well as high school student athletes — with character development, financial literacy and responsible decision making.
The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation will start a pilot program for high school coaches and offer a course on financial literacy for UT student athletes. It will also promote research into sports, including decision-making by athletes. The university president's office will spend $300,000 a year to run the center, largely using revenue from The Longhorn Network, UT officials said.
“A lot of these issues, including academic success and financial literacy, is preparing people as human beings to go out and live in the world,” UT President Bill Powers said at a press conference on Monday. "We want to do something positive about that, rather than just disciplinary action.”
The announcement comes amid a national conversation about professional athletes’ behavior off the field. This year, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was indicted on charges of third-degree aggravated assault for allegedly knocking his then-fiancée unconscious, and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.
The announcement also coincides with news on Monday that a Travis County grand jury indicted two former UT football players, Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, on charges of sexual assault.
“This is not a response to any sort of occurrences of player behavior here or elsewhere — this is just the University saying that we have a responsibility to mold young men and women into responsible citizens," said Daron K. Roberts, the founding director of the center.
Roberts, a UT lecturer and former NFL assistant coach, said the center will teach high school coaches the most effective measures for correcting troubling behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse.
UT football coach Charlie Strong has dismissed several athletes who violated his core values. Strong has said those values include honesty, treating women with respect, and no drugs, guns or stealing.
Strong, who was not at the press conference on Monday, said in a statement he welcomed the center.
"Everything we do at The University of Texas is about the overall development of student athletes," Strong said. "What they do on the field, in the classroom and in the community are all really important parts of these young people becoming adults.”
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