TORONTO — Star Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse has decided to return to college for his senior year, passing up a chance to immediately cash in on his breakout performance at last month’s world track and field championships.
The 20-year-old from Markham, Ont., plans to race for the University of Southern California in the upcoming season, an Athletics Canada spokesman told The Canadian Press on Thursday.
After winning a surprise bronze medal in the 100 metres at the IAAF championship in Beijing, De Grasse was asked whether he would skip his final year at college and turn pro, a move that experts say could be worth more than a million dollars in endorsement deals.
While De Grasse didn’t directly answer the questions in China, he did say his mother wanted him to return to school to get his degree.
NCAA athletes must maintain their amateur status and are not allowed to collect prize money beyond “necessary expenses,” be represented by an agent, or earn income from endorsement deals, among other things.
Returning to USC could cost De Grasse, whose star power is at a high after an unexpected 2015 season that saw him win two NCAA titles, two Pan Am gold medals and two world championship bronze medals. An injury or a disappointing showing in the NCAA could diminish his immediate earning potential.
A source told The Canadian Press back in June — well before De Grasse had fully exploded on the world track scene — that he was offered a seven-figure shoe deal.
According to track agent Kris Mychasiw, who works with former Canadian sprint star Bruny Surin, “everyone” was trying to sign De Grasse to a management deal after his bronze-winning race. He also estimated that De Grasse could have earned as much as $700,000 in endorsement deals in 2016, and could have inked a shoe contract worth an additional $700,000 a year.
De Grasse burst on the scene, seemingly from out of nowhere, when he blew away the field in both the 100 and 200 metres at the NCAA championships in June. He ran a wind-aided time of 9.75 seconds in the 100, becoming one of a handful of sprinters to break 10 seconds this year. Just 45 minutes later, he won the 200 with a time of 19.58.
He went on to win the 100 title at the Canadian championships, and then took gold in both the 100 and 200 at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. His time of 19.88 in the 200 shattered the previous Pan Am record.
De Grasse almost had a third gold medal in Toronto, but the Canadian 4×100 relay team was disqualified following two American-led protests.
The expectations were high heading into Beijing, and De Grasse met them by tying for bronze in the 100 in a field that included Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt and American Justin Gatlin.
To cap his stellar season, he helped Canada’s beleaguered 4×100 relay team earn some redemption by capturing bronze. The Canadians were elevated from fourth to third when the Americans were disqualified for an illegal baton exchange.