Joseph Schooling’s $750,000 Olympic Gold Bonus Raises Questions in the NCAA

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

While the NCAA remains set on student-athletes maintaining amateur status, the college athletics governing body does allow student-athletes to accept bonuses for winning Olympic medals.

For American athletes, that means making $25,000 in the case of gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. That means a handful of NCAA eligible swimmers including Lilly King, Ryan Murphy, Kathleen Baker, and Simone Manuel headed back to school this fall with prizes from the US Olympic Committee in tow.

For the University of Texas’ Joseph Schooling who won 100 butterfly gold for Singapore, and the nation’s first Olympic swimming medal, the check was a much larger sum. Schooling received $750,000 for his performance in Rio.

In light of this, NCAA President Mark Emmert explained that some in the NCAA are now questioning the policy.

Emmert told the Aspen Institute,

“To be perfectly honest, it’s causing everybody to go, ‘Oh, well, that’s not really what we were thinking about,’” Emmert said. “So, I don’t know where the members will go on that. I mean, that’s a little different than 15 grand for the silver medal for swimming for the U.S. of A. So, I think that’s going to stimulate a very interesting conversation.”

The original intent of the rule had been to reward “an extraordinary thing” with what was not expected to be an extraordinary sum. Large prizes raise more questions about amateur status. There were not yet any formally announced plans to discuss the issue.

Read more from NBC Sports here.

47 Comments

47 comments

  1. Jim Christian

    Since it’s the first ever, Schooling’s gold is an extra extraordinary performance.

    • Stephan Dubos

      On top of that he beat the 3 favourites for the title with Phelps, LeClos and Cseh..

    • Tyler Yates

      Plus it’s Singapore’s money. We don’t get a say in it (though maybe schooling should be training in Singapore instead of USA his whole life)

      • avatar
        Alicia

        But he(his family) pays a lot of money to train in USA so It doesn’t really matter where he trains. Another reason is he goes to university there so makes more sense!

  2. Naveh Eldar

    Good for him. He broke no rule, so they’ll have to change it for the future if they want to but Schooling has some pocket money for school!

  3. Ross Knowles

    What?….does the NCAA want a cut or are they pulling the liberal card saying it’s not “fair”?

    • Donald P. Spellman

      What “liberal card”?
      I’m pretty left of center and I view the NCAA on the same ethical plane as……..the Hutts.

  4. Kristie Wisniewski

    I think all those NCAA rules are nuts. You have to choose between endorsements or playing your sport in college. For some sports like swim college is the best part of your competition.

    In this case Schooling didn’t do anything wrong at all so he better be fine! That kid worked so hard for many many years and did the near impossible.

    The NCAA needs to lift all that pro/amateur stuff for some sports like swimming. It’s different with basketball, football or hockey where they will leave school if they turn pro. But for swim it makes no sense.

  5. Dirk G. Winkler

    All US Olympic medalists should be compensated with larger amounts of $$ than they currently are, period. Maybe not 750Gs but at least 250 or on that range, like most other countries!

  6. Mariana Strizheus

    Maybe NCAA needs to reconsider what it’s worth the medals that the Olympic athletes bring home..

  7. Donald P. Spellman

    I openly question why the NCAA should try to regulate this as all. They love making millions off the backs of the athletes to feed the system but when Schooling or a Jeremy Bloom come along they want to keep these talented people poor.

    • Chadli Fernandez Horrego

      Kinda strange that non-revenue athletes can be allowed to make money while the revenue athletes cannot. The excuse will always be to question the idea of “amateurism” to remind everyone that there’s no income under the NCAA system.

    • Donald P. Spellman

      Chadli Fernandez Horrego : no income for the worker bees. The administrative bunch makes a decent living.

    • Donald P. Spellman

      Chadli Fernandez Horrego : much like all one party nation states!

  8. Carlton Fancher

    The NCAA is full of archaic traditions and rules.Needs to go by way of the AAU

  9. Christopher Sykes

    The NCAA should not dictate what the Olympics or other countries reward the athletes that excel at the Olympics

  10. Keith Langner

    I think the NCAA is just upset they did not get a cut of the winnings.

  11. avatar
    Bill Bell

    Take away just eligibility!

    We can’t have nasty professionals ” contaminating” our ” amateur” collegians!

    Dirty filthy lucre is what it is and Schooling should be sent to bed w/ out of dinner — or maybe Eddie can make him go an extra 10000 (ALL fly natch).

  12. avatar
    Jpyle21

    Wasn’t Schoolings gold medal Singapore’s first swimming gold medal ever? It was history for them. What if USA swimming had only one swimming medal. Think about all of the prize money they wouldn’t be handing out. Do you think USOC would boost the prize money to help incentivize our athletes to be better? For Singapore a country that now only has one gold swimming medal, that could be what they did. On another topic, I believe swim swam reported he gave the money to his parents to pay off their loans. Honorable if you ask me.

    Regardless of the amount, if the bonus was established prior to the Olympic Games and every athlete had an opportunity to earn the same value in money, then I don’t see the problem.

  13. avatar
    Usha

    Athletes deserve the money they earn and should be allowed to keep it.naysers are just envious of the success of schooling.

  14. Michael Paul Stephens

    its simple. if you are an amateur, you play/swim for love. if he takes the money, he gives up being an amateur and gives up his right to compete at the collegiate level.

    • avatar
      Careful Observer

      This line of simplistic thinking works supremely well only if you completely ignore the fact that “amateur” collegiate athletics are already a multi-billion dollar business for coaches, administrators, media, sponsors, and numerous others. Why draw the “amateur” line around the athletes exclusively?

      • avatar
        Leander

        Do you really think that any swim program breaks even? The NCAA does make money on football and basketball, but most NCAA Division I football and basketball teams manage to lose money in the process and are heavily dependent on donations to fund their programs.

  15. Alexander Gomez

    Envidiosos dejen que él disfrute su premio por el enorme esfuerzo

  16. avatar
    Celine Koh

    Education in the states is not cheap. The family incurred debts twice the amount awarded. And Spore will never get the chance to award another swimmer for a gold Olympic medal while he/ she swims for NCCA, not for the next hundred years.

    Do the maths. After taxes and mandatory contribution to Spore swim association, it’s just $500,000, which will settle a part of the debts incurred from bank loans taken out to educate Schooling in the US.

  17. Norwo John

    oh leave him alone. he is a champ and made is country proud.

  18. Mariana Vayanas

    I think the #NCAA is out of place 😡 They should question why American Olympians get crumbs in the richest country in the world! And why can’t an athlete go to college and still get endorsements, who cares if they are pro or not. They let pro basketball players in the Olympics at their convenience 😡 Twisted!!!! #NCAASHUTUP

  19. Tyler Yates

    Schooling has been swimming in the United States as a little kid but he knew he’d have more opportunity competing under Singapore. He’s a USA athlete. If the question is citizenship, then maybe the NCAA should match the Olympic rules and require that, too. The discrepancy is embarrassing.

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  21. Chal De Leon Burns

    You need to remember Schooling is not American but Singaporean in the Olympics. If his country decides to give him more money for putting Singapore in the Olympic swimming map NCAA has nothing to do with it. Schooling is a foreign student in America. Again don’t make this political but congratulate Schooling for a job well done!

    • avatar
      Leander

      If Joseph Schooling does not want to follow NCAA rules, then he does not have to. He certainly does not have the right to swim in NCAA events or train with a NCAA team. And, if he’s not an American citizen, then he does not have the right to stay here and can go home whenever he wants to do so. He is an adult and can make his own choices.

  22. Chal De Leon Burns

    NCAA know your place. If it’s an NCAA swimming event by all means implement your NCAA rules.

  23. Rahul Cheeniyil

    This is nonsense. He didn’t “go pro” or renounce his “amateur” status in any way. He went to a meet, won his race, and was rewarded accordingly by the team he represented. The NCAA has nothing to do with this happening at all and should therefore have no governing power over any Olympic medal rewards.

  24. avatar
    Foo jong peng Terence

    Investment in US studies etc. cost millions. Havent anybody thought about it ? Champs from USA are choosen from 200m population. Spore barely has 3m to choose from. Fo that matter if all medalist in USA were rewarded under the same scheme it would cost 60 over million(fraction of a fighter jet) over 4 yrs for a 4 yrs budget of ?? $ trillions…common USA…certainly NCAA could do better to lobby more for athletes. Having said nett 700 500k in Spore will buy schooling only the smallest govt flat of 75 sq m. If in USA he would (like US atheletes) been able to buy 5 big landed properties. Please NCAA do not be red eye but look at the case in perspective. Rather lobby for higher rewards for yr guys. Yes they deserved more certainly much more than 15k 25k…4/6/8 x more ???
    Helicopter view….

  25. avatar
    Mimo

    He earned the money not as an American citizen; it is his country that decides how much to award him with. What would have happened if he was given pennies, or a 1000 $. Is this headline important because he was awarded more than his american counterparts?

  26. avatar
    Paul

    OK, replying as a Singaporean. The money that was given to schooling, he did not receive the whole sum. A rather significant portion of it was “paid” to the Singapore swimming association.

    And this money are not endorsements. They are considered as salary and bonus for a job well done.

    Schooling is no longer an amateur in the world of swimming if you can defeat 3 favourites to an olympic gold medal.

    And lastly, Yes it’s Singapore’s money. It’s Singaporean’s money.

  27. avatar
    Kyle W.

    Seriously, the NCAA just needs to eff off and let him have his money. The Olympics have been around far longer than the NCAA, and if they have a problem with a student athlete accepting such a large sum, that’s their problem, not the athlete’s. Congratulations on the achievement!

  28. avatar
    Don M

    SHAME on the NCAA and their unrelenting micromanagement of athletes for their financial benefit, while they make 1.1 BILLION dollars a year off their talent and hard work. This was the Olympic Games and country of Singapore money, neither of which the NCAA has any jurisdiction in. Go bark up another tree or better yet start paying college athletes directly for their contributions to your organization. And in the meantime the USA should up their bonus system for Olympic Medalists, so the best athletes that train and live in the US don’t represent other countries that pay better.

  29. avatar
    Leander

    A good education, in a real academic field, is worth far more than $750,000. The real problem is that too many NCAA schools don’t bother to provide an education to their students in general and the student athletes in particular. Far too many students go to school for years and do not obtain a worthwhile education while they are there. That we accept this is a real scandal. Giving Joseph Schooling the choice between participating in NCAA swimming or taking $750,000 is not.

  30. Ber Nadet

    Laat ze eerst naar voetballers kijken

Author: Cathleen Pruden

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Cathleen Pruden is a 2016 graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the High School Content Manager at Swimming World. She was a four time All-American and a three time Academic All-American for the Lyons. She grew up swimming in and has also coached in Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently she is the Assistant Coach at Bowdoin College.

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