Military Considers Recruiting Proposal to Enlist College Athletes

Military Considers Recruiting Proposal to Enlist College Athletes College lacrosse players College lacrosse players. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 28 April 2022 11:42 AM

A defense contractor has proposed an initiative by which the military would fund athletic college scholarships in exchange for mandatory service, Sportico reported.

Military leaders are considering the proposal from Orchestra Macrosystems CEO Dave Maloney, whose Houston-based software and analytics company is an Air Force contractor, Sportico said Thursday.

Football and basketball players are excluded from Maloney's proposal, which has reached Department of Defense leaders and key members of Congress.

The Scholar-Athlete Intelligence and Leadership Program (SAIL-P) suggests that the Department of Defense offer to replace school-funded athletic scholarships for every sport other than football and basketball at the NCAA, NAIA and junior college levels.

Athletes would have no military obligations while in school, but would be committed to a yet-to-be-determined amount of service after they're done with school.

Maloney's idea — which he termed "21st century pathway to service" in a memo that has circulated around the Pentagon and Capitol Hill — resulted from trying to find a solution to inefficient recruiting within the armed forces.

"The Department of Defense just went to Congress with its initial budget for next year. It's the largest budget ever, and yet we're seeing a decrease in our technological capabilities, and we're seeing a decrease in any interest in service," Maloney told Sportico. "What does that tell you? Talented people don't want to work at decaying institutions. You've got to gut-punch it."

Not only has the military spent billions of dollars on recruits who fail basic training, college athletic departments face increasing cuts to nonrevenue teams such as tennis and wrestling, Sportico reported.

The proposal, though, would face several major challenges, not the least being trying to convince the NCAA, its members and high school athletes that the endeavor makes sense.

An NCAA spokeswoman told Sportico that the governing body had been unaware of the proposal.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, after initially being "shocked" when informed of the proposed plan, suggested he would be open-minded if it gained steam.

"We happen to have one of the more vibrant ROTC programs in the country, so we're already involved in the military," Swarbrick said. "I have about 101 questions, but would I listen? Sure."

The Pentagon last month requested a 2023 budget of $773 billion, with $1.32 billion targeted for "recruiting and advertising" across the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. Additional money was requested to train recruits.

Sportico reported that the 100-plus public NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools reported spending $653 million in scholarship costs outside of football and basketball in 2020-21.