NCAA All-American Michael Brinegar has announced that he will forego his final season of collegiate eligibility to turn pro and prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
He will leave Indiana University and head back to California to train with Mark Schubert and his new elite training group named “The Swim Team” based out of El Toro Swim Club.
Brinegar finished 6th at the 2022 NCAA Championships in the mile. After a rough day 1 swim where he was just 40th in the 500 free, Brinegar finished the meet much stronger, swimming 14:33.76.
Brinegar is a native of Indiana and at 15 was invited by Mark Schubert to come to California to train first at the Golden West Swim Club and then at Mission Viejo. In his freshman year at Indiana, he was the NCAA runner-up in the 1650 free. He took a redshirt year in the 2019-2020 season to train with Schubert in California in preparation for what was supposed to be the 2020 Olympic Trials. After the onset of the pandemic, that year’s NCAA Championship meet was canceled and the Olympic Games were postponed.
He placed 3rd in both the 800 and 1500 freestyles at the 2019 US National Championships.
He returned to Indiana for 2020-2021 and finished 10th in the mile at the NCAA Championships. He also won the Big Ten title in the event that year, making him the first Hoosier to do so since 1991.
He then qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games via 2nd-place finishes in both the 800 and 1500 freestyles at the 2021 US Olympic Trials. He finished 17th in both races in Tokyo.
Brinegar again represented Team USA at the 2021 World Short Course Championships, but he, along with Rhyan White and Michael Andrew, left the meet early amid rising cases of COVID-19 “out of an abundance of caution.” Brinegar departed Abu Dhabi before competing.
“I want to express my appreciation to Ray Looze, Mike Westphal and Cory Chitwood for the time and energy they invested in me during my time in Bloomington,” Brinegar said upon making his decision.
“I am proud that my teammates and I were able to win two Big Ten team titles and accomplish three Top 6 NCAA Team finishes in my three years as a Hoosier. IU practices, meets, trips and team activities are things I will miss as I return to California to resume training with Mark Schubert and The Swim Team.”
Brinegar is 22 years old, and were it not for his redshirt year, the 2021-2022 season would have been his fourth year of college swimming. His mom, Jennifer (Hooker) Brinegar was a member of the 1976 US Olympic Team. She trained under Schubert in the 1970s in his first stint at Mission Viejo.
When Schubert was the USA Swimming National Team Director, a number of top American swimmers turned pro and skipped their NCAA eligibility. That includes, most infamously, Dagny Knutson, arguably the best high school swimmer in history. Knutson would eventually file a lawsuit saying that Schubert’s promise that USA Swimming would financially support her training and education at the National Center of Excellence in Southern California was only partially upheld after he was fired.
That was a different era, though; new government and NCAA regulations allow collegiate athletes more latitude to cash in on their name, image, and likeness than previous generations of collegiate athletes, which has shifted the decision-making process of turning pro early.
Still, going pro gives athletes more flexibility and control over their training.
Brinegar will finish his degree from Indiana as part of the Pro Athlete program. Under that program, the IU athletics department will cover tuition for him to complete his degree online.