Established as a good bet for Olympic gold after breezing to a pair of world records two months ago, Virginia swimmer Ed Moses has decided to give up his final two years of NCAA eligibility.
Moses is sifting through endorsement deals and stands to receive substantial bonuses from U.S.A. Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee as he gears up for the Summer Games in Sydney. He will remain a student at the University and will continue to train with the Cavaliers, but will not be able to compete collegiately once he accepts the money.
Moses obliterated short course world records in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke at the NCAA Championships in late March with times of 57.66 seconds and 2:06.40, respectively. His split time of 29.96 seconds in the 100 set an American record for the 50 breast.
With the departure of senior stalwarts like Austin Ramirez and Doak Finch, the Cavaliers can ill afford to lose their superstar breaststroker. But coach Mark Bernardino said he understands and supports Moses' decision.
"He has an incredibly lucrative opportunity in front of him," Bernardino said. "I'm truly happy for Ed and for what these opportunities can mean for his future. It would be selfish of me to feel otherwise. Obviously, he goes with the blessing and the understanding of me and of his teammates."
Moses said there was not much problem deciding between NCAA competition and hundreds of thousands of dollars, once he realized that he could remain at the University.
"I'm going to take classes and train with the team," said Moses, who is majoring in sports medicine. "After I talked to my parents and my coaches and everyone was cool with it, after I realized that nothing would really change with my life, it was pretty easy."
Having chosen Octagon Agencies to represent him, Moses' next decision is which company will pay him to wear its swimsuits. He said he will decide soon between Speedo, Adidas and Tyr.
Bernardino dealt with a similar situation last year, when Danica Wizniuk left the Virginia women's squad to train with the Canadian Olympic team after a spectacular rookie season. Wizniuk was named a 1999 first team All-American and ACC Rookie of the Year and grabbed MVP honors at the ACC Championships after winning the 100- and 200-yard breast and breaking the conference record in the 200.
"It's a very difficult blow for the program and I'm heartbroken for the team," Bernardino said. "We're going to have to rally around and other swimmers will have to step forward. We're still a very, very fine team, just without our greatest athlete. He'll be part of the program, just in a different way"