Seventeen year old Catherine Bellis, aka Cici, just finished an amazing run at the 2016 U.S. Open…
The Californian battled her way into the third round where she lost, 6-1 6-1, to the No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber. With her success at the Open and her rising stardom within the game Bellis seems to be questioning her future in tennis.
Cici Bellis busted onto the U.S. Open scene in 2014, when at 15 years old, she won her first round match against the 12th seed, Dominika Cibulkova. Since then she’s been slowly climbing up the ranks. She still needed to win three qualifying matches however, just to get into the main draw of this year’s Open.
The high school senior, who takes courses online, was expected to sign a letter of intent in November with Stanford University. With her run at the Open, Bellis could move up as many as 40 spots in the rankings. That would put her very close to being able to automatically enter the main draw at Grand Slams instead of having to qualify. By making it into the third round her prize money totaled $144,00. At this point she can compete at the highest level and she probably finds herself at the proverbial fork in the road.
Go Pro ?… Or Not To Go Pro? …That is the question.
If Bellis sticks with the Stanford plan, she’ll get an amazing education – there’s no doubt about that. However, the NCAA has strict rules regarding pay-for-play, so she’ll have to forfeit the majority of the $144,000 prize money in order to keep her amateur status. The NCAA does allow for some of the winnings to cover travel expenses.
The archaic NCAA rules regarding amateurism are clear. If you accept prize money over $10,000, you forgo your NCAA eligibility – unless you’re an Olympian. Under “Operation Gold” the NCAA rules permit Olympic athletes to keep their prize money: $25,000 for gold medals, $15,000 for silver medals, and $10,000 for bronze medals. Olympic competitors are also allowed to accept training and expense stipends without jeopardizing their amateur status. That means USA swimming star Katie Ledecky will be able to take her $115,000 Rio Olympics prize money to. … wait for it…. Stanford this fall. She won’t however, make the millions offered in endorsements.
Will Bellis be joining Ledecky in Palo Alto? Or will she forgo her NCAA eligibility and turn professional?
“Right now, I think it’s still definitely an option for me,” Bellis said of Stanford. “I’m not going to make any quick decisions.”
It’s a tough decision, but two solid choices to have. I’m not sure what I’d do as a player, but as a mother, I’d send her to Stanford! For now, Bellis is enjoying her U.S. Open success and New York City.
“Now is going to be the best part of my trip here because now I actually get to go shopping.”