Military Talks Major Recruiting Plan to Enlist College Athletes

The U.S. military is discussing an initiative to fund athletic scholarships for tens of thousands of college athletes each year in exchange for mandatory service.

Sportico reports the initiative, proposed by a defense contractor that would not include football and basketball players, has reached military and civilian leaders throughout the Department of Defense and key members of Congress.

The Scholar-Athlete Intelligence and Leadership Program (SAIL-P) has been pitched as a solution to inefficient recruiting within the armed forces.

Sportico's Eben Novy-Williams and Daniel Libit report the armed forces spend billions on recruits who fail basic training, and the proposal's idea is to provide a solution to financial unease in college sports, where athletic departments face increasing cuts to non-revenue teams like tennis and wrestling.

The outlet reports that last month, the Pentagon requested a record $773 billion budget for 2023, which includes about $1.32 billion in “recruiting and advertising” costs across the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force, and billions more for the basic training of those recruits.

Sportico’s college financial database shows that 100-plus public FBS schools reported spending $653 million in scholarship costs outside of football and basketball in 2020-21, to show a comparison.

While the initiative is likely to draw pushback from some key stakeholders, such as the NCAA and its members, intercollegiate athletics and the Department of Defense would also need to rethink the approach to recruiting high school athletes to a commitment of years of military or alternative civilian service once they have completed their schooling.

Sportico reports the idea is the brainchild of Dave Maloney, CEO of Orchestra Macrosystems, a Houston-based software and analytics company that is an Air Force contractor. Maloney, a former Auburn track athlete, framed his plan as a “21st century pathway to service," the outlet reports.

“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 said in an interview with Sportico. “What does that tell you? Talented people don’t want to work at decaying institutions. You’ve got to gut-punch it.”

The outlet reports that while the discussion of the initiative has advanced into the Defense Department and other parts of the government, it hasn’t yet made similar advancements within college sports. An NCAA spokeswoman said the governing body was unaware of the proposed initiative before Sportico contacted them for the story.

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