PHOENIX, Arizona, December 28. IN a heart-warming holiday news items, it looks like professional swimmer Dagny Knutson now gets a chance at attending college on a scholarship after her decisions to turn professional out of high school didn’t pan out.
In a New York Times article out today by Karen Crouse, Knutson broke the news that Grand Canyon University has offered her a college scholarship at the Phoenix-based institution after head coach Steve Schaffer was inspired to push for help from his school.
“[I was inspired] by a quote in Crouse’s last article [on Dagny],” Schaffer told Swimming World. “I decided someone had to do something to make things right and thought GCU might be able to be that someone.”
Grand Canyon is currently transitioning to the NCAA Division I level after putting up some amazing times in Division II.
Last year, Swimming World broke the news of Knutson’s difficulties with an eating disorder that also built on top of some bad advice to turn professional and turn down a full ride scholarship to Auburn University out of high school in North Dakota. The incredible article from August of 2012 timed following the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials so that it would not take any limelight away from the selection meet, detailed her disordered eating, as well as the devastating decision to turn pro based on some faulty promises regarding the USA Swimming Athlete Partnership Plan.
Earlier this year, Knutson failed at petitioning the NCAA to grant her a hardship waiver to allow her to swim collegiately. Even though her story is heart-breaking, the NCAA is never going to bend on someone turning pro within a sport, then being able to compete in that sport again. An athlete can be a pro in baseball, and decide to go back to school and compete in football. But a professional swimmer is never going to be able to be a collegiate swimming again, thus the reason for Missy Franklin turning down millions of dollars for the California experience in Berkeley.
When Knutson’s NCAA petition fell on deaf ears, Schaffer stepped in. He worked with his athletics department to find dollars to create an academic scholarship for Knutson with no strings attached.
“I need to be very clear that Dagny is not a coach,” Schaffer told Swimming World. “If she chooses she can be a manager, but the scholarship is not contingent on that. The scholarship is only contingent on academic progress and following university and team rules.”
Long story short, Schaffer explained that he’s hoping to provide Knutson with as much of the college experience as the circumstances allow. He’s also opened the door for Knutson to train with other post-grad athletes such as NCAA Division II champion Eetu Karvonen if she decides to jump back into the sport.
“It’s basically a miracle,” Knutson told the New York Times. “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I mean, the option to compete, to train again, will always be there, but that is not really my priority. My priority is to get through school, and this is a great opportunity to do that without a huge financial burden.”
Knutson’s scholarship starts next semester, and she has been making steps to transition from living in North Dakota to move to Phoenix.