Recruiting is going to be busy this first week of September. Jabari Bird, Aaron Gordon and Marcus Lee will all be at Cal this weekend. Joining them will be the most decorated women's Olympian in London, Missy Franklin.
Franklin has a big decision to make that goes beyond choosing a college; she is already planning on attending a four-year school regardless. What will be a bigger decision for her is whether she wants to stay an amateur or turn pro.
As an amateur, Franklin would be able to swim full-time with the Cal women's swim team and compete in all the NCAA races. She'd definitely be joining a stacked women's team that has already coming off of back-to-back national championships and three titles in four years. However, after coming off an incredible London performance where she won four gold medals and five medals in all, she'd be passing up numerous endorsement opportunities. As a pro, Franklin could still attend college at the school of her choice and train with their swim team while receiving endorsements for her work.
One possible suggestion being floated around the interwebs is the possibility that Franklin swims for one or two years in college as an amateur, then turns pro in time for the World Championships in 2015 and the Rio Olympics in 2016 to rake in the endorsement money. That way she gets the college experience, can get her degree (she'd still be able to train with her college team), and still be able to earn the millions she's supposedly worth as an athlete. It'd be the best way to accomplish all worlds for a swimmer who might only be scratching the surface of her potential.
It's going to be a decision well worth watching. Cal's swimming program is No. 1 in the country, and made up a good chunk of the gold medal hardware the Bears brought home from London. Franklin would add to that legacy for sure. Considering how much of a fan she is of Natalie Coughlin and Teri McKeever, you've got to feel like we're in a good spot.
However, tucked into page 64 of this 426 page manual are two rules that are now critically important to a slew of Olympic athletes as they carve out exceptions. Specifically, 220.127.116.11.4.3.2 "Expenses/Benefits Related to Olympic Games" holds that:
"It is permissible for members of an Olympic team to receive all nonmonetary benefits and awards provided to members of an Olympic team beyond actual and necessary expenses, including entertainment, equipment, clothing, long distance telephone service, Internet access, and any other item or service for which it can be demonstrated that the same benefit is available to all members of that nation's Olympic team or the specific sport Olympic team in question." Additionally, 18.104.22.168.4.3.3 "Operation Gold Grant" holds that:
"An individual(prospective student-athlete or student-athlete) may accept funds that are administered by the U.S. Olympic Committee pursuant to its Operation Gold program."
The end result? Olympic athletes who received a significant amount of money from Operation Gold are allowed, under NCAA rules,to maintain their college eligibility.\
The bigger issue revolves around accepting endorsements while still a student-athlete at an NCAA institution. Jeremy Bloom accepted them at Colorado and was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for his final two years of his football career.
Basically, Missy doesn't have to be forced into anything. If she wants to go to college but turn pro to accept endorsements while training with the college team (a la Allyson Felix), she can do that. If she wants to go to college and swim on a college team, that can happen too. It's all in her hands.