The U.S. military is actively discussing an initiative, proposed by a defense contractor, to fund athletic scholarships for tens of thousands of college athletes each year in exchange for their mandatory service.
Over the last seven months, the proposal, which would not include football and basketball players, has reached military and civilian leaders throughout the Department of Defense and key members of Congress. It has been pitched as a solution to inefficient recruiting within the armed forces—which spend billions on recruits who fail basic training—and financial unease in college sports, where athletic departments face increasing cuts to non-revenue teams like tennis and wrestling.
Needless to say, the proposal would require a massive rethink for both intercollegiate athletics and the Department of Defense, two American institutions often criticized for their lack of innovation. It would almost assuredly draw pushback from some key stakeholders, such as the NCAA and its members. That’s before the task of convincing high school athletes, an attractive demographic to military recruiters, that a college athletic scholarship is worth a commitment to years of military or alternative civilian service once they have completed their schooling.