Swimming recruiting? Swimming recruiting.
It's been a beautiful year for Cal in the swimming pool. NCAA champions, men's and women's We have two multi-gold medalists in Dana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian (five golds, one silver in all). We have three other medalists from these games in Caitlin Leverenz, Jessica Hardy and Rachel Bootsma (present, past, future Bears respectively). However, the icing on this beautiful Olympics might come long, long after the cauldron is extinguished.
17 year old Missy Franklin was the unquestioned female swimming star, as she won four gold medals at these games in the 100 meter and 200 meter backstroke (setting a world record here). With a long Olympic career likely ahead of her, the best is probably yet to come. And she just radiates happiness and youthful exuberance. It's hard not to love her.
And as she admitted to NBC's Bob Costas in a delightful interview, she's considering Cal (along with USC, Georgia, maybe Texas). She loves McKeever. She idolizes Natalie Coughlin, the original queen of the backstroke. The Bears are probably significant favorites until we hear otherwise.
Of course, the NCAA is the destroyer of beautiful dreams, and they might cause a huge problem that might make her reconsider that dream just a bit. I know Franklin loves college, but the NCAA tends to have a way of making college suck for student-athletes.
Each individual gold medal won by Franklin is worth $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee's standard bonus. By winning the backstroke at both 100 and 200 meters, she is guaranteed at least $50,000, plus lesser dollar amounts as a member of three American relay teams that captured a medal. That's money Franklin can keep with no impact upon her amateur status with the NCAA, according to USA Swimming spokesperson Karen Linhart.
But here's where it gets really interesting and more than a little confounding.
USA Swimming bumps the reward for each individual gold medal by a sweet $75,000. Although contacted well before Franklin made a major splash in the Olympic pool, NCAA officials have not informed USA Swimming if acceptance of this additional $150,000 in earnings would make Franklin ineligible to compete for California-Berkeley, Georgia or any other college program she might choose.
While Franklin can pocket the basic gold-medal bonus from the USOC, accepting a $50,000 bonus won by setting a world record in the 200 back is strictly prohibited, unless she wants to turn pro.
No high horsing here. $150,000 is a lot of money. If Franklin is forced to turn it down to meet some stupid NCAA restrictions, Franklin's family could strongly consider turning pro. College is nice and all, but Franklin has a chance to be this generation's female Michael Phelps. She's a once-in-a-lifetime swimming athlete worth millions of dollars of endorsements that she wouldn't start earning until she's done being an amateur. I know swimming isn't football or basketball and longevity is probably guaranteed, but it's still a huge risk.
The question might come down to what type of collegiate path she ends up taking.
"She is going to college. Mom has spoken. And she wants to go to college," said D.A. Franklin, the swimmer's mother. "The point is: Will she swim with a college team and compete? Or turn pro and just practice with the coach where she goes to college?
That's a question I'm sure a lot of Cal fans will be asking when the NCAA makes their ruling.