As the most decorated female athlete at the London Olympics, 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin is one decision away from becoming a millionaire. With her haul of four gold medals and one bronze and her invaluable NBC face time in her portfolio, once The Missile declares her intention to go professional, the endorsements and the associated dollars -- estimated to be well into seven figures -- will be hers.
But even with a potential financial windfall awaiting her, Franklin is holding her ground. She is not ready to give up her dream of swimming in college. And doing so for Cal, Georgia or USC, three of the schools on Franklin's short list, would make her unable to collect, at least for the time being and at least financially, on her mushrooming popularity.
"I still believe that college is what's going to make me the happiest girl," Franklin said at a press conference in London.
Franklin could cash in on her fame tomorrow and still continue her education while training and competing as a professional, but NCAA rules would forbid her from swimming for her school. For Franklin, esprit de corps may ultimately lead her to decide team is more important than any amount of money (though it helps to know that the money -- and possibly more -- will likely still be there if she has a repeat performance at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016).
Montana sophomore soccer player Brooke Moody thinks she knows the root of Franklin's internal debate, because she's lived it: the Sisterhood.
Moody is a 2011 graduate of the all-girls Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo. Franklin will be a senior this coming year.
That means Moody and Franklin spent two years together at the 500-student school as part of the Sisterhood, the bond that connects the girls of the school. Even though she makes every attempt to explain it, the idea of the Sisterhood to the uninitiated leaves you thinking: part Godfather, part Dead Poets Society, part Skull and Bones and a touch of the Illuminati.
"The Sisterhood is really close. We did a lot of bonding things," Moody says, and leaves it at that.
Moody believes her former schoolmate is debating between the payoff of going professional and continuing to compete in a tightknit team environment because of the lessons learned while in the Sisterhood. Don't believe it? Here is what Franklin said recently in an interview:
"When I walked through the door at Regis Jesuit into Tradition Hall, I immediately knew I was home. Before anyone said one word to me, I knew I belonged in the Sisterhood. I felt peaceful, happy and safe."
How do you put a price tag on that? Moody believes it's the same feeling that Franklin wants to continue, which is why she is considering swimming in college instead of making the decision 99 percent of us would make. That's the lasting power of the Sisterhood.
"She is having a ton of money thrown at her, but she loves the team aspect of everything," Moody says. "I know she loves the idea of community and team, so it does not surprise me she is still considering college."
It's an interesting dilemma in Gordon Gekko's America, where "greed, for lack of a better word, is good." But can it overcome the Sisterhood?