A United States tennis star had to forgo tens of thousands of dollars to keep her NCAA eligibility.
As you can guess, she isn’t happy about it.
After making it through the qualifying rounds, Fiona Crawley, a University of North Carolina senior, made her Grand Slam debut at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.
Despite losing her first-round match to Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Crawley earned $81,000 in prize money for making the tournament.
But that left the 21-year-old Tar Heel with a choice: Take the money and lose NCAA eligibility or give up her winnings – she chose the latter.
“I would never take the money and never risk my eligibility, but I worked my butt off this week and it seems unreal that there are football and basketball players making millions in NIL deals, and I can’t take the money that I worked so hard for,” Crawley said, according to The News & Observer.
“It’s so horrible,” she continued. “I can’t even talk about it, I’m sorry. It’s so, so horrible.”
NCAA amateurism rules allow student-athletes to collect up to $10,000 in prize money, and only if it comes from the event sponsor.
Above that $10,000 threshold, the money “may not exceed actual and necessary expenses for each subsequent event in the calendar year,” according to NCAA rules.
Even after the bitter ending, Crawley said just making it to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was a dream come true.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long … since I was 5 years old and old enough to know what the U.S. Open was,” Crawley said during an interview after qualifying for the U.S. Open.
“After the match, when I finished, I definitely was in shock. I’ve had a day and night to process it, and I’m still definitely in shock. I feel like I won’t really digest it until I’m about to serve or return the first point of my first [main-draw] match.”