Katie Ledecky Should Take Good Looks at Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin Before She Turns Downs Millions of Dollars


Katie Ledecky has decided to pass on millions of dollars in endorsements so that she can swim at Stanford. This is a colossally bad decision and all of the adults in her life should be ashamed that they are letting her throw away a fortune so she can have a “college experience.” Here’s what Ledecky told Mike & Mike this morning. Via Business Insider:

"“No, it wasn’t,” Ledecky said. “I’ve always wanted to swim collegiately and have that experience. I think it is going to be a lot of fun to be on a team with some really great friends and great swimmers and also just go to class with them.”"

Hey, you know what you can do with millions of dollars? Pay for tuition at Stanford. Let’s imagine for a moment that Ledecky took the money and applied to Stanford. Would they accept her?

Why couldn’t Stanford offer her an assistant coaching position? She could swim and compete with her teammates everyday. She could travel to meets. She just couldn’t participate in the meets that should be nothing more than exhibitions and easy wins for her. Unless the Australian 4×100 gold medal team is at another Pac-12 school, what is there for her to prove on the collegiate level? If she’s not a scholarship swimmer, who is telling the 4-time Olympic gold medalist to stay away?

Michael Phelps should be the blueprint. He attended Michigan and practiced with the swim team and was even a volunteer assistant coach. Even if he hadn’t turned into the multi-Olympics all-time great he did, he would have been in a good position to keep working towards a degree. And he probably still could have started the Michael Phelps Foundation. It’s hard to pay it forward without getting paid.

College is supposed to be where you go so you can make eventually make money. If you have a skill that allows you to make money, you don’t need college. Basketball and football players only go to college until they know they can become professional athletes. Ledecky has a one-in-a-million opportunity and she’s throwing it away for something she can experience any time she wants.

Sure, Ledecky wouldn’t be a normal college kid if she had millions of dollars, but guess what? She’s not a normal college kid with 5 medals. There is nothing normal about Katie Ledecky’s life with or without money.

If only there were a recent example showing what a bad decision it is to pass up all this money. How about Missy Franklin, who won four golds and a bronze in London in 2012? Remember when she was the next superstar swimmer for Team USA? She passed up a ton of money as a teenager because she wanted to swim collegiately. She won four individual NCAA championships at Cal-Berkeley, which is nice, but who really cares? She won gold at the Olympics. Franklin didn’t win any solo medals at the 2016 Olympics. Via the LA Times:

"The Games are the latest chapter in an extended period of struggles that don’t have a clear cause or answer. She hasn’t clocked a personal best since 2014. She’s dealt with an injured back, left UC Berkeley to turn professional in 2015 and juggled the jet-setting obligations that come with being one of the sport’s most recognizable faces."

She had some endorsements going into Rio, but now she’s been surpassed by Ledecky. She’s still just 21, but her earning potential has been severely impacted. She passed up prize money before the London Olympics and then turned down three years of high profile endorsements before finally going pro in 2015. Who knows how much money she missed out on. There is no guarantee that the money will be waiting for Ledecky in 2020. Stanford, presumably, will still be there and they’d still be happy to welcome an Olympic champion to their pool.

Of course, everything up until this point has completely ignored this point – why the f— can’t Katie Ledecky swim at Stanford and have endorsements? Why did Missy Franklin have to choose? Why is the NCAA so damn awful? Why can’t college athletes make money off their own likeness? We should not still be having this conversation.

Pay the swimmer.