Academy atheletes could jump to pro sports right away under House plan

Military academy athletes who graduate next year can skip active duty obligations to Pursue a professional sports career Under new regulations currently being considered by House lawmakers.

The language it is included in The House Armed Services Committee’s initial draft of the annual defense authorization billis the latest development in the saga of rules surrounding elite athletes at academies, which have been updated several times over the past decade.

Under the proposed rules, any student who… US Military Academya Naval Academy or Air Force Academy student who “obtains employment as a professional athlete prior to completing his or her assigned service obligation” will be allowed to transfer to a recruiting base in the Reserves, pending approval by service officials.

This alternative reserve obligation could last up to 10 years, and would require athletes to “participate in efforts to recruit and retain players.” [military] Members.”

Academic athletes who were drafted by professional sports leagues or signed to free-agent contracts have been able to apply for those waivers in the past. But in 2022, lawmakers rescinded that policy, requiring service members to complete at least two years of active duty before becoming eligible for a waiver.

This clause sparked immediate controversy because it seemed targeted Army star linebacker Andre Carter II, who was expected to be selected in the NFL Draft in April 2023.

After several weeks of debate, Congress passed an addendum to these new rules, making them applicable only to athletes who will graduate in 2025 or later. Carter received a waiver and eventually signed a contract to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

Two more Army players signed undrafted free agent contracts with NFL teams last month: Leo Lewin, with the Carolina Panthers, and Jimmy Ciarlo, with the New York Jets. Air Force linebacker Alec Mock signed a similar contract with the Broncos. His teammate and fellow linebacker Bo Richter also signed with the Vikings.

These athletes will still have to spend time on active duty after their athletic careers end. The new proposal would drop this obligation with a longer standby obligation instead.

However, without any rule change, academy athletes who graduate next year will not be eligible for any of these waiver options.

Critics of the direct path from academies to professional sports point out that cadets receive tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money, military training and taxpayer support that is essentially wasted if they never serve on active duty.

But in recent years, proponents of the more athlete-friendly policy have emphasized that it only applies to a small number of individuals each year, and that academies do allow deferment of service for other non-athletic, non-military opportunities, such as academy. Rhodes Scholarship Programme.

The rule change must pass not only committee debate on the topic next week, but also scrutiny from the full House and Senate later this summer before heading to the president to be signed into law.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for military times. He has covered Washington, D.C., since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans politics. His work has received numerous honors, including the 2009 Polk Award, the 2010 National Headlines Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award and the VFW News Media Award.

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