The Dagny Knutson-turning pro situation was all very strange. After Knutson committed to Auburn, the coaching staff there went through a significant shakeup, that included the very fast departure of Paul Yetter, who at the time was the ‘it coach’ in women’s swimming in the United States.
Instead of transferring or swimming out her career at Auburn, Knutson decided to turn pro. She had some success, qualifying for the 2011 World Championship team and winning a gold medal in the 800 free relay after training with the Gator Swim Club, but the success was fleeting.
Battles with an eating disorder and a lack of financial support led to Knutson retiring, making a comeback, and then retiring again in January of this year. Since then, she’s been coaching high school at Century High School in North Dakota (the alma mater of Missy Franklin’s club coach Todd Schmitz, interestingly enough.)
And for all of this madness and chaos, Knutson sacrificed what surely would have been a full collegiate scholarship. She has unsuccessfully petitioned the NCAA for the return of her amateur status (likely on the basis of the very inconsequential financial gain she had as a ‘pro’), but because she had signed with an agent, her appeal was denied.
This morning, though, the New York Times is reporting that Knutson will get her scholarship after all. Thanks to Grand Canyon head coach Steve Schaffer, who pushed his administration on the matter, Knutsen has received a scholarship to begin studying at the university in the spring semester of this year.
Shaffer has opened the door for the 21-year old Knutson to do some student managing with his program, and has also said that she is welcome to train with his post-graduate group if she so desires, though her scholarship is based only on her maintaining good academic standing with the university.
Grand Canyon is transitioning from being one of the best Division II programs in the country into joining the NCAA’s top division, which means 4 years without an NCAA Championship meet to shoot for. Knutson’s presence on deck, in any capacity, will be some welcome excitement for that program.
In the least, this will allow Knutson an opportunity to complete her degree in education and gain back some of the missed opportunities that she’d had presented to her coming out of high school. In the most, it gives Knutson a team atmosphere in which to return to training if she so desires. After all, at only 21 years old, and as one of the best junior swimmers that history has ever seen, there would still be plenty of time if she wanted to make a push for 2016.
But most importantly now, for the first time in a while, Knutson has the opportunity to do what she wants; to do what makes her happy in swimming. She has the financial security of a scholarship; she has the support, but not pressure, from a coaching staff and a team; and most importantly the option to push all of that aside and study like a normal college student if she so chooses (and she says that the latter of these right now is her priority). This, Knutson said to the New York Times, is “basically a miracle.”