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NCAA: Olympic Swimming's No1 Sponsor?

Nov 24, 2012  - Craig Lord

As nations consider budgets, funding cuts and plans for the Rio 2016 Olympic cycle, there is one program, a so-called "amateur" one at that because the athletes are rewarded in experience rather than cash, to top them all when it comes to financial sponsorship of Olympic success. 

Take some figures from the American Swimming Coaches Association: at London 2012, nations boasted 82 swimmers being honed in NCAA Division I. On average, the tuition grant for each of those kids is at least $20,000. That adds up to a minimum $1.64 million of funding through the American system into the Olympic pool. The true figure is likely to be much higher.

There have been mumblings of late in the US about the need to clamp down on overseas swimmers taking up scholarships but much of the talk was drowned somewhat by the 31 medals, 16 of them gold, with which American swimmers dominated the Olympic swimming events this summer past, the men's and women's programmes far stronger than anything anyone in the world has to offer.

A twin tradition is alive and kicking: national-team world-leading success, buoyed by the edge of competition from overseas athletes who make it all the tougher for Americans - and thus make Americans tougher. 

The leading programmes that placed kids on Olympic swim teams in 2012 are:

  • University of Georgia - 8
  • University of California - Berkeley - 7
  • University of Florida - 7
  • Southern Cal - 7 
  • Texas A&M - 7 

As the count of such things goes on, the above figures speak volumes about why the college system in the US deserves support and why that support should remain open to overseas swimmers, some of whom end up staying for the rest of their lives, helping the US get stronger still.

A couple of days late this post but Thanksgiving is an appropriate moment for swimming to remind itself of the immense contribution made by the USA to a sport that often notices the medals table but overlooks the background.