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Olympian Missy Franklin Torn Between Choosing College or Career


What do you do for an encore after winning four Olympic gold medals and a bronze?

If you're Missy Franklin, you head back to high school.

In the next few weeks, the 17-year-old Franklin will begin her senior year at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., which set up a Web page to track her Olympic success this summer.

After that? The future remains undetermined for Franklin, due to one major consideration: endorsement money.

If Franklin decides to swim at the collegiate level, she'll be barred from accepting potentially millions in endorsements because of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. She already bypassed upwards of a half-million in endorsements before the 2012 Olympics, according to ESPN sports-business reporter Darren Rovell.

The U.S. Olympics Committee "Operation Gold" program, which awarded $25,000 to U.S. American Olympians who won gold medals in London, $15,000 for silver medals, and $10,000 for bronze medals, also caused an amateurism headache for the NCAA, as the Sports Law Blog has detailed.

Long story short: Franklin was allowed to bank medal-related bonuses totaling at least $200,000 while maintaining her amateur status, according to NCAA bylaws, but accepting a $50,000 bonus for setting the world record in the 200-meter backstroke would have caused her to lose her amateurism.

Confused? You're not the only one.

"It's definitely been hard turning down some money," Franklin told The Atlantic before the Olympics. "It's been not fun at all."

She told reporters in London last Saturday that "I still believe that college is what's going to make me the happiest girl," according to the Associated Press.

However, ESPN's Rovell reported Monday that Franklin has "moved off her stance that she definitely would stay amateur and go to college," presumably because of the ridiculous amount of endorsement money that could await her otherwise.

One sports-sponsorship specialist estimated to Forbes that Franklin would be able to earn $1 million to $2 million per year over the next five years through endorsements.

Another marketing specialist, Eric Fernandez, who serves as senior vice president at the marketing consulting firm MediaLink, told Forbes:

"I think it's hard not to justify waving her amateurism. If I was an objective adviser to her and her family, I would advise this way: Her window to reap the rewards of her life's work is relatively limited when you consider it over a traditional working career. As such, her potential earnings in the next four years will be five-times greater than what she'll be able to make in the subsequent 30 years."

One last thing for Franklin to consider: In the immediate pre- and post-Olympic period, Olympians were prohibited from endorsing products or companies that weren't also Olympic sponsors, according to ESPN's Kristi Dosh.

If Franklin decides to forgo her professional career for a few years of college, that rule could further limit her endorsement potential once the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero roll around.

Photo: Missy Franklin competes in the women's 200-meter backstroke final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Aug. 3. She won the gold. (Julio Cortez/AP)

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