Top-Ranked College Tennis Player Blasts NCAA Over Dumb Rules After Forfeiting U.S. Open Prize Money

Fiona Crawley at the U.S. Open of tennis
Getty Image / iStockphoto

University of North Carolina tennis star Fiona Crawley is furious with the current state of the NCAA and its rules surrounding athlete compensation in the NIL era. The 21-year-old, who is currently ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division I women’s singles, was unable to receive any money after a strong performance at the U.S. Open in New York last week.

Crawley is an amateur. She is a student-athlete in Chapel Hill.

As of July 1, 2021, Crawley is free to make as much money as she wants through her Name, Image and Likeness. That is not the case when it comes to other financial avenues, like the one that she encountered while competing at one of the four major championships.

Crawley played in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament and played her way into the main draw with three-straight wins.

It set her up for a First Round matchup against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the world. Unfortunately, the reigning NCAA Player of the Year’s run came to an end with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat. She did not make it to the Second Round.

Although it was a bummer not to continue further into the bracket, Crawley was proud of her performance and rightfully so. It earned her $81,000 in prize money by making the main draw.

That’s a lot of dough for anyone, let alone a college student. There is just one problem.

Fiona Crawley cannot accept the money.

NCAA rules do not allow “amateur” athletes to accept prize money once a student-athlete is enrolled full-time at a college or university. That’s Crawley, who earned $81,000 in New York last week and won’t see a dime because it would end her collegiate eligibility to accept the money.

Crawley wants the money. She can’t have it.

She wants to keep playing tennis for the Tar Heels and get her degree.

Her frustrations are valid. Other athletes, mostly in other sports, are getting paid big money through NIL. Some of them, especially in football, are getting direct payments from collectives of $100,000+.

But Crawley can’t accept the $81,000 that she earned through a strong qualifier performance.

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.

— Fiona Crawley, via The News & Observer

When asked about her comments earlier this week, Crawley doubled down.

NCAA rules allow players to profit from NIL, not prize money. Those are the rules.

Is it time for the rules to change? Crawley thinks so.