What If The NIL Rule Had Been Passed Earlier? Maybe Michael Phelps In a College Suit?

Michael Phelps

What If The NIL Rule Had Been Passed Earlier? Maybe Michael Phelps In a College Suit?

The NCAA recently made an impactful change to its landscape. Passing the NIL, or Name, Image and Likeness rule, now allows student-athletes in the NCAA to profit off of their own brands, make deals with other brands, and use their name to earn money. This is a monumental decision and has already been utilized by athletes such as Carson Foster and Regan Smith. Both Foster and Smith have already signed with swimwear brands, Foster signing with Mizuno, and Smith signing with Speedo.

There are several swimmers who chose not to attend college in order to make brand deals. Some athletes that might cross one’s mind are Michael Phelps and Michael Andrew. This article will look into what NCAA swimming would look like had this decision been made considerably earlier than it was.

Let’s discuss some of the most notable pros in the swimming world.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, as well as the greatest swimmer in history. He decided to forego his NCAA eligibility and become a professional swimmer at the age of 16, signing with Speedo. This decision immediately took him out of NCAA contention. Phelps was an incredible long course swimmer, using his extraordinary turns and underwaters. Seeing him race short-course in the collegiate system would have been intriguing. He still holds National Age Group (NAG) records. While he competed in short-course meets, they were never a main focus for him. Had he competed in the NCAA, the records in the 400 individual medley, 200 butterfly and 200 freestyle might be much faster.

Katie Ledecky


Photo Courtesy: Stanford Athletics

Katie Ledecky is widely regarded as the most dominant female swimmer of all-time. Ledecky swam two years at Stanford where she set the NCAA record in the 1650. This record is more than 20 seconds faster than the next-fastest performer, Erica Sullivan. Ledecky, like Phelps, decided to become a professional, leaving many questions in the air. She was constantly improving, and continuing this trend, many believe that she could have broken 15 minutes in the 1650. The 15-minute barrier is a very elusive barrier for male milers in the NCAA. Only 34 male swimmers were under 15:00 last season. Had she broken this barrier, she would have been the only woman ever under 15:20, 15:10 and 15:00. This time was attainable for Ledecky, and would have only further cemented her incredible legacy.

Michael Andrew

Michael Andrew is recognized as one of the greatest age group swimmers of all-time. He is also the youngest swimmer to ever sign an endorsement deal, signing with Adidas at the age of 14. This decision led to a great deal of criticism as many did not agree with his decision to go pro at such a young age. Andrew is one of the most versatile sprinters, winning all four of the 50s of stroke at the 2018 Nationals. He has since silenced critics, making his first Olympic team, and winning a gold medal in world-record fashion, as a member of the United States 400 medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics. Andrew is still the holder of many short course NAGs, and is still showing improvement. If the NIL had been passed earlier, this would have given Andrew the opportunity to represent an NCAA program, and continue his short course dominance.


With the recent passing of the NIL, the NCAA has been hit by a shockwave. There have been a large number of swimmers who have surrendered their eligibility in order to make a profit. They were all notable swimmers who would have made a large impact on the NCAA in their time. If the NIL was passed earlier, during these swimmers’ careers, some NCAA and American records might be faster than they are today.

Who are some other swimmers that would have benefited from the passing of this rule? Leave a comment to let us know.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.