Erica Sullivan Withdraws Commitment From University of Southern California

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

US National team member Erica Sullivan has withdrawn her commitment from the University of Southern California where she was originally going to be a freshman in the fall of 2018, she confirmed with Swimming World.

She wrote on Instagram:

“As I am about to make an announcement, I feel it is important that I explain some things. I have officially decided to put myself back in the recruiting pool and enter the class of 2021 for the time being. This more than likely means that I will lose a year of NCAA eligibility and even though that makes me sad, it is a sacrifice I know I need to make to give myself the best training situation for Tokyo 2021.

“I committed to USC in the summer of 2017 when I was 16. I chose the school for several reasons: the film school, the opportunity of being in California and unapologetically being myself (I was closeted at the time), and getting to train under Dave Salo and Catherine Kase, a coach who has been successful in distance swimming, specifically open water. Since I was barely on the national junior team at the time, I was initially unable to receive enough scholarship to be able to afford such a prestigious university. I was in need of a good offer because I knew my family was going to lose its main form of income with my dad’s illness. Through communication with Salo, we created a unique arrangement where I would stay home September 1 of 2018 – 19, go up to school Semester 2 of 2018 – 19, and then come home fr the year of 2019 – 20, and going to finish the rest of my education 2020 – 2024. I committed right away for the opportunity to swim at my dream school so my dad would be able to share the joy of knowing which university I had decided on before he passed.

“My senior year of high school, I went on and struggled with my fair share of trauma that comes with losing a parent at 16. USC showed their unwavering support through these hard times. After some time, it became apparent I needed help dealing with this trauma so I decided to go to a psychologist. Within 8 months; I learned how to cope with trauma, be a more positive influence for my teammates, and being vocal about my sexuality to those who personally knew me.

“When it was time for me to work out the details for college in the fall of 2018, we learned that I wouldn’t be able to attend USC due to academic challenges. We decided it would be healthier to stay home for the selected semester and take a few classes while still working on my mental health. During that year, I stayed in close communication with USC’s coaches and their academic advisors to ensure that I would be prepared once I got to school and had some prerequisites completed. Dave and Catherine never lacked in giving me the support I needed, and later that summer I trained with Catherine and got closer to her during my 2019 World Championships 25K experience which gave me the chance to grow closer with my soon to be college coach.

“I continued my training after last summer and started to focus on my pool swimming in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games. Things were very optimistic and I was getting excited. In January of 2020, it was announced Dave Salo would retire. Though the situation wasn’t ideal, I knew that the Games would be completed by time I would arrive and I would still have Catherine to guide me through my career. My plan wasn’t completely changed, I would still have the ability to the best of both worlds through swim and film school. I kept my goals high and continued to train.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused some unknowns in my life as the Games got pushed back a year and Catherine had decided to leave USC to be there with her family. These changes left me with many choices that I was not prepared to make. These choices are critical to my career. However, with my love for USC, I kept an open mind, despite not knowing who the new staff would be. There were risks that came with these options, as I could lose a year of NCAA eligibility and keep doing what I know works for me or get all four years of eligibility and accept a lot of change in my life.

“With the new hire of coach Jeremy Kipp and turn over with majority of the coaching staff, it has left me uncertain in my college selection. He seems like a very good hire for USC and I’m sure they will have much success.

“Over the last few years since my commitment, my swim career has reached new heights that I never imagined possible. I am so grateful for all the loyalty that USC has shown me, but I am not the same person that I was at 16. I feel that it is now my responsibility to show the amount of respect towards USC that it has given me the past few years and decline my scholarship offer. I hope USC can take my scholarship and put it towards an athlete that will bring great success to the program.

“All I can leave you with is you never really know what life could throw at you, but accept it with open arms and enjoy the journey. I am very excited to see what I can do and where I will be in the next few years.”

With love,

Erica Sullivan.

Erica Sullivan had deferred her enrollment to USC until the fall of 2020, originally after the Olympic Games since she was hoping on making the open water Olympic team in the spring of 2019, which would keep her with her club coach Ron Aitken at the Sandpipers of Nevada through until this year.

Ultimately, Sullivan finished third in the 10K at the 2019 Nationals, missing a spot to try and qualify for the Olympics, but the 19-year-old has emerged as a favorite to make next year’s Olympic team in the inaugural 1500 freestyle. In 2019, she was the third fastest American in the 1500 freestyle and eighth quickest in the world by virtue of her 15:55.25 at the TYR Pro Series in Clovis. She also represented the United States at the 2019 World Championships by finishing fifth in the 25K.

The women’s 1500 freestyle will be making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, with a lot of eyes on world record holder and three-time World Champ Katie Ledecky leading the charge for the American women. In the early days of 2020, Sullivan was ranked second in the world in the 1500 freestyle, ahead of Worlds silver medalist Sarah Kohler.

With the Olympics being postponed to the summer of 2021 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Erica Sullivan will stay in Nevada until after the Games, and will still be enrolling at her new school in the fall of 2021.