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Duke undecided on future of academic bonus payments to student-athletes

Duke was not one of 22 FBS-level schools identified in ESPN's April 6 survey with plans to offer academic bonuses this year.
Duke was not one of 22 FBS-level schools identified in ESPN's April 6 survey with plans to offer academic bonuses this year.

With new rules surrounding financial compensation for student-athletes’ academic achievement, only 22 of 130 FBS-level programs are offering bonus payments this year, according to a survey conducted by ESPN.

First reported April 6 by Dan Murphy, in addition to the 22 schools offering bonuses to athletes, 34 have not decided if or when they will begin offering payments, 20 said they plan to offer payments in the future, 15 said they have no plans to pay bonuses while 10 responded to public records requests but said that they had either no relevant documents to share or provided documents with no plans to offer academic bonuses.

When asked about Duke’s future plans to incentivize good grades with cash compensation, Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations wrote that its plans are still up in the air.

“Duke has not yet made a decision on whether we will provide benefits for academic performance that are now permitted by the NCAA,” he said Monday in an email to The Chronicle.

“A working group of administrators and faculty has been consulting with various stakeholders, including student-athletes and coaches, and assessing the academic, financial and operational issues, in order to make recommendations to [President Vincent Price] later this year.”

The NCAA changed its rules in August 2020 permitting schools to pay athletes a maximum of $5,980 per year. 

“The oddly specific dollar amount was calculated during the legal proceedings because it is equal to the maximum amount of financial value an athlete can receive in one year from awards related to their athletic performance, such as conference player of the year titles or the Heisman Trophy,” Murphy wrote.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s upheld ruling in NCAA v. Alston in June 2021, schools are allowed—but not required—to compensate athletes for their classroom performance. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion in the 9-0 decision stating that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by restricting education-related benefits for student-athletes.

Among the 22 schools that will be offering such payments this fall are nine SEC schools, five from the Big 12, and three from the ACC—Clemson, Miami and North Carolina. Miami was the only private school listed among those planning to compensate student-athletes for academic performance this fall.

Duke’s football program has historically been at the top nationally in terms of academic performance with perennially high GPA marks, as 68 members made ACC Academic Honor Roll for 2020-21. Duke has led the ACC in Honor Roll selections in 33 of the past 34 years. In Fall 2021, Duke football placed second among Power Five schools with a 96% graduation success rate for students entering school between 2011 and 2014.

Micah Hurewitz | Sports Managing Editor

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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