Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Franklin and the NCAA: Amateur or pro?

Missy Franklin won four gold medals at the London Olympic Games, but she does not want the endorsements or the sponsorships, thank you very much.

At least, not yet. Franklin stated, according to a number of media outlets, that she wants to preserve her amateur status in order to be able to go to college.

Franklin said that the decision will be a tough one, but that she would love to experience college life. In an ESPN interview, she enthusiastically stated that she would particularly "love the team aspect" of intercollegiate competition.

Jane McManus from ESPNW pointed out that it's "four years of earning potential that she will be missing out on." A blogger on BleacherReport, on the other hand, commended Franklin on her decision.

Just to be clear, Franklin will be allowed to accept a certain amount for her accomplishments -- contrary to what the catchy ESPNW video title "Don't show Missy the money" suggests. How much exactly that is before she loses a year of eligibility, that will be the job of the famous NCAA Eligibility Center to figure out.

A number of reasons can be named for both why she should pursue a college swimming career, but also why she should not.

As a former Division I athlete, who loved her college career, I am happy to hear that Franklin wants to experience an individual sport in a team setting because the team aspect does add a different dimension to competition even if you are still alone in the pool (or on the court).

What I also find important to mention is that swimming is one of those sports in which college level competition is strong enough that college swimmers can, and do often, pursue professional careers after enrolling in school or even after graduation and they do that very successfully. This is not a trend for all sports. In tennis, for instance, you will hardly find a top professional/Olympic player who is a former college athlete.

So, we can certainly analyze and talk about Franlkin's decision. And, just as she said, there are many factors to consider.

But one thing is for sure: If she decides to go pro now, she will be giving up on NCAA swimming for good. (Note: Not college swimming altogether -- the NAIA could be an option later)

If she, on the other hand, decides to stay an amateur, she will not be giving up the hopes of another Olympic participation.

She also would not be giving up endorsements and sponsorship. She would merely be delaying them.

-- Dunja Antunovic

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