Apple 2.0

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MacBooks for jocks

December 9, 2009: 11:54 AM ET

A Florida university is providing each of its student athletes with a MacBook Pro

USF Bulls with MacBooks. Photo: Joseph Gamble

They get the glory. They get the cheerleaders. And now they get free MacBooks.

In what it claims is a first, the University of South Florida announced Wednesday that it is loaning all of its student athletes -- some 460 in all -- 13-inch MacBook Pros so that can keep up with their studies while on the road.

As part of the program, USF will be adding new lectures to iTunes U, the section of Apple's music- and video-download service where educational material is posted.

The university declined to put a price tag on the program, but a spokesman said that the cost of providing the MacBooks for the spring semester was in the "six figures," even after a special Apple (AAPL) discount.

Handing out the laptops. Photo: Joseph Gamble (USF)

According to NCAA rules, the computers will remain the property of USF and will be checked out from and returned to the athletics department at the start and conclusion of each semester. The rules also prohibit students from endorsing or recommending Apple products or services.

And if some students would rather use their Windows or Ubuntu machines than a MacBook Pro?

"All student-athletes will receive one if they chose to accept," says Chris Freet, USF assistant director of athletics. "Right now, we won't force them to move away from their existing computer if they are reluctant to use the MacBook."

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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