Should Olympic-Medal-Grants be NCAA-Allowed For All Countries?

This morning, on “the Twitter,” Texas A&M compliance officer Brad Barnes posed an interesting question: should NCAA athletes from all countries be allowed to accept Olympic monetary rewards without giving up their college eligibility?

Per the NCAA bylaws:

Title: - Operation Gold Grant.
An individual (prospective student-athlete or student-athlete) may accept funds that are administered by the U.S. Olympic Committee pursuant to its Operation Gold program.  (Adopted: 4/26/01)

This rule has already come into the headlines since London, as it was what allowed Missy Franklin to still reap some financial benefits from her four-gold-medal Olympic performance without giving up her college eligibility.

Specifically, the USOC pays out $25,000 for each gold medal, $15,000 for each silver medal, and $10,000 for each bronze medal won at the Olympics.

Now, the question has been posed as to whether or not an NCAA athletes should be able to receive similar benefits from their home country: at present, they are not able to do so.

The first hurdle to get past is whether or not international athletes should be allowed in the NCAA; they are at present, and that’s not necessarily the topic for discussion here, so let’s sidestep that one for the time being. Given that they are being allowed, should they receive the same rights to reward for Olympic benefits as American athletes are?

Under Title VII laws, it could be argued that this rule is discrimination on the basis of National Origin: athletes from other countries are not entitled to receive the equivalent as athletes from this country, even if they are U.S. Citizens (in many cases, international Olympians are also U.S. Citizens).

The logic behind only specifically allowing the American program is easy to see: it’s easier for the NCAA, based in the United States, to monitor payments from the USOC than it would be, for example, from the Russian Olympic Committee or the Kenyan Olympic Committee. On the other hand, allowing payments from other countries’ Olympic Committees would seem to hold with the logic of the rules: payments directly from the USOC do not come from any specific sponsor, encourage elite international achievement, and do not give an athlete incentive to choose one college over the other.

It’s a tricky situation, but with the fervor growing over both Olympic payments for professional athletes and payments for NCAA athletes, this rule seems to be the next logical step for athletes to take major issue with. The question is how loudly the cries of international athletes will be heard in the U.S. collegiate system.

Notably, in London there was only a single international athlete who would be affected by this – Vlad Morozov, who was on Russia’s bronze-medal winning 400 free relay. Other examples from past years include Slovenian 200 free silver medalist in 2008 Sara Isakovic still had eligibility left to swim for Cal. Other countries offer rewards to their athletes for final’ing, for example, as well.

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10 years ago

So it is OK to discriminate just because it is the US, really? What’s wrong with you? The argument that it will be hard to keep track of foreign accounts and grants is crazy. You do remember that Enron’s creative accounting scandal happen in the US. I guess we the foreigners are more entitled to say that we have no idea how money can be hidden in the US banking system.
I love your international swim team but discriminating other athletes in a such a way goes so much against the principles even of your own country (I’m sorry but for comments/rules like this you’ll get called a certain name in Europe). If you want to ban payments from… Read more »

11 years ago

I think that the NCAA has protected the US Athletes with the Gold Grant program and NCAA rules & regulations. I think it is fair that All the NCAA Athletes be treated the same if the won a medal at the London Games.

I do see that the Russian Federation pays alot more to thier National players then the US. I think all NCAA Athletes that win a medal weather American or British should be allowed to keep the prize money as long as the money does not exceed the amounts awarded to the US players. They should all retain thier NCAA eligibility at the same time.

Let me think!! American NCAA Athletes are allowed to keep thier prize… Read more »

11 years ago

haha -sorry . I saw the Vlad & we all know there is only one famous Russian swimmer of that name. Does a fine fly in freezing Siberian rivers .

Reply to  Jg
11 years ago

Maybe thats why Russia pays so much to the medal winners. Bronze ($54,000), Silver ($82,000) and Gold ($135,000).

Reply to  cleo
11 years ago

The women gymnasts also got a flash car worth about $60,000.

The American winners have to go on cereal boxes & tour in a 6 month glitzy show . On night 2 the famously “unimpressed Makkayla fractured her tib & fib.

I think the $$$ side of sport is the better story.

Reply to  Jg
10 years ago

I’ve also been curious if Russia and other countries provide BONUSES to people who look after their athletes while their athletes are training abroad. I agree that the $$$ side of the sport is the better story.

Reply to  CLEO
10 years ago

Not certain of all aspects in Russia but across the board in sport & arts there is a tradition of having personal coaches for elite performers.The American male dancer contracted to the Bolshoi was surprised to find he had a dedicated coach /philosopher just for him.

The basic structure of sport/arts has not changed from the USSR but with more glam factor for success stories. I think most coaches are still paid by the state.

11 years ago

Very few 18 & under swimmers would have earnt money. How old is Vlad -43?

JP Patches
11 years ago

I was wondering… is the dollar amount paid out by the USOC at the Olympics per medal divided per relay swimmer and if so heats swimmers as well?

11 years ago

And the answer is: “Tennis”.
Swimming actually has very little to do with the current rule. Most of the rules that have evolved over the past 20 years in the NCAA regarding this sort of thing have been brought into effect which limit athlete’s ability to be compensated for elite performances by their home NGB’s come from tennis.
The reason for this is that for so long, with the amateur tours that are spread out around the world in that sport which in themselves are very lucrative and winning or placing well at tournaments world wide bring prize money, the NCAA realized that many many foreign tennis players were in fact pretty much purely professional and were making… Read more »

Reply to  Swmguy70
10 years ago

I agree – I think there are probably quite a few bank accounts for the athletes as well as the people helping the athletes. Like SWMGUY wrote, it’s obvious when a football player from a low income city in the US drives a Lexus – people know the family history – how can he afford it? What about alumni who are helping foreign students with creative ways to gain access to the US – mail order bride – foreign exchange program – free housing – etc, etc. A host family in the US providing housing for a high school water polo player. (The girl just happened to be top rank in her country). I know of two cases – different… Read more »

Mike Kuzma
11 years ago

What about in a case of current college swimmers having the reception of financial benefit from their performance deferred until they have completed their NCAA eligibility?

Where the NGB puts the money from winning a medal into a CD for the athlete which will mature at the date of their eligibility ends.

The Grand Inquisitor
11 years ago

On the surface, this one seems obvious – for sake of basic fairness rule should apply uniformly regardless of country. Rule should be ammended to include any IOC country’s governing body, not just USA.

What would be possible motives to limit to US only?
1) to discourage high level international athletes from competing in the NCAA
2) perhaps complications in documenting compliance?

what other possible rationale?

Reply to  The Grand Inquisitor
11 years ago

Agreed on the fairness of it all. However, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to document all of this. If the NGB has a policy in place, it should be written in the bylaws. If the athlete receives monetary reward for their performance it would reflect in the amount given (their bank account info) and in the NGBs financial records. Obtaining that info may prove to be the biggest hurdle if a country’s star is trying to train in the US and said country is not keen on that idea.

Reply to  coacherik
11 years ago

Vlad Morozov won a relay medal with Russia and swims for USC.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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