After winning five medals at the 2016 Olympics, Katie Ledecky will be heading to college. But experts say that although the teen is giving up sponsorship opportunities, it may not cost the Team USA swimmer as much as you think.
"Yes [Ledecky's] leaving money on the table, but I think she's done a calculation," said Rick Burton, a sports management professor at Syracuse University. "She can afford to lose that money because of what she gains in other areas."
The 19-year-old athlete will start at Stanford University later this summer, and will swim at least one NCAA season. Although she will be receiving a scholarship, by staying amateur she won't be able to accept sponsorship deals or celebrity appearance fees.
It's hard to peg exactly how much Ledecky could have made by going pro, but several experts put it in the million-dollar range versus the approximately $60,000 per year it costs to attend and live at Stanford. Ledecky's teammate Missy Franklin, for example, turned down a reported $5 million in deals to go to University of California, Berkeley. She turned pro after two years at the school.
"From my perspective it's a shame it's an either-or situation," said Luke Bonner, sports and entertainment marketing manager at agency GYK Antler. "From an athlete's perspective really, the only people who can benefit financially from the college athlete's marketability is the NCAA and the NCAA sponsors."