Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi likely would have been a first-round pick if he had entered this year’s NFL draft. But he decided to stay in school in large part because of an insurance policy that protected him in the event of a career-ending injury.
That is not unusual. What is unusual is that it wasn’t Ogbuehi or his parents who paid for the policy. It was Texas A&M, and it was perfectly legal under NCAA rules.
Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reports that A&M badly wanted Ogbuehi to return for his senior season instead of turn pro, and so the school did the same thing a school does when it wants a high school player to enroll: It engaged in a recruiting process designed to persuade Ogbuehi that another year in school would be good for him. That recruiting pitch became a lot easier when Texas A&M researched the details of the NCAA rules regarding the Student Assistance Fund, which gives schools discretion to spend money on things like a player needing an emergency trip home to visit a sick relative. What Texas A&M discovered is that it’s permissible to pay for a player’s insurance policy with Student Assistance Fund money.
In the case of Ogbuehi, that means A&M may spend about $60,000 on an insurance policy that could pay Ogbuehi millions if he suffers a career-ending injury this season. A&M associate AD for football Justin Moore told Feldman that when officials in the athletic department discovered that NCAA rules allowed them to pay for Ogbuehi’s insurance, they were thrilled.
“I don’t think many schools know about it,” Moore said. “It’s a game-changer.”
It’s a good deal for A&M’s football program and for Ogbuehi, but as with virtually every story about the NCAA, it also raises questions about the NCAA’s definition of amateurism. Why is it OK for a school to pay for a player’s $60,000 insurance policy in one case, but not OK for a school to pay for a few bucks worth of pasta in another case? And when many student-athletes are just trying to make ends meet, is it really the best use of Student Assistance Fund money to spend $60,000 on a player who could have, if he wanted to, left for the NFL and made millions?
The NCAA may need to address some of those questions in the future. But for this year, A&M is very happy to have a tackle on its offensive line who’s good enough to be in the NFL. And considering that an NFL team would have been paying him millions, A&M getting him back for the cost of a five-figure insurance policy is a bargain.