Cal held a press conference for its most famous incoming freshman on the eve of the fall semester Wednesday.
Welcome to the world of Missy Franklin, four-time Olympic champion and, about to be, college student. She is not your average freshman, and she knows it. That’s why she and her swim team and her school are taking extra care.
“There are so many things we have to consider and we have to think about,” she said in a room at the Cal football team’s Memorial Stadium while wearing a navy blue Cal swim team shirt and shining golden fingernails. “My parents have taught me so well. We’re talked to (Cal swim) coach Teri (McKeever) a lot, and we’re very aware of everything that we need to be aware of, and I feel very confident going into school and starting this new experience.
“We’re aware of everything, and we’re aware of what’s happening, and I feel even though there might be that microscope I can have as normal of a college experience as I can.”
Franklin said she has to be aware about posting pictures on social media of where she is, the kind of personal information freely floated by many of her new peers. She wouldn’t disclose which classes she was taking, and the name of her freshman dorm roommate is being held private, too.
The Associated Press expanded:
There have been conversations with police and campus security, and guidance on how to deal with harassment. The coach will talk to her student-athletes about being cautious to keep everybody safe and protect Franklin’s privacy.
She moved in Sunday, after flying from New York where she appeared at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the U.S. Open on Saturday, put on a Cal swim cap for the first time this week and will have her first class Friday. She said goodbye to her mother Tuesday, and, yes, she shed tears.
“We got our first syllabus, and it was saying how our tests are 25 percent of our grade, so that kind of freaks me out a little bit,” she said. “But hopefully I’ll get the hang of it.”
Franklin told an interesting story of how she decided Cal was the college for her on her official visit.
“I remember walking in to the Claremont Hotel with my parents that first night,” she said. “I walked into the hotel, and I looked at them and I was like, ‘Is it bad that I haven’t even been on campus and I know I’m going here?’ I was just there, and I just knew. I just felt. It was just in my heart the whole time. The whole trip nothing felt forced. It all felt so natural.”
One reporter mentioned that another newcomer, Cal football coach Sonny Dykes, was walking down a street in Berkeley and saw a man riding a bike without any clothes on. Those are the kinds of, um, interesting aspects of Cal life she’ll get used to. Franklin let out a laugh.
“That’s one of my favorite things about Berkeley — it’s probably the most unique environment that I’ve ever been in,” she said. “You sort of get used to seeing the fun quirky people on the sidewalk, and everyone’s so friendly wherever you go, which I also love. It’s just fun getting accustomed to it, and it’s exciting living in a new place. It’s very different from Colorado, from Centennial.”
Franklin and McKeever joked about Franklin’s image. Has she ever had a bad hair day? It’s a bit of a reminder of when Tim Tebow came to the University of Florida with similar fanfare.
“I want to see her bad hair day,” McKeever said. “I haven’t seen it yet. My life as a 51-year-old tells me there are days you can’t be this happy, can’t be this put together.”
“I think some of her teammates are going to see it’s not fun to be Missy Franklin,” McKeever added, according to the AP.
Franklin became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships earlier this month. She repeated Wednesday that she plans to compete for the Cal swim team for two years and turn pro before the 2016 Olympics but still finish her degree.
Here’s what’s scary: she said there’s room for improvement.
“That’s why I’m here, and I know Teri’s going to help me so much with that, and the team’s going to help me so much with that,” Franklin said. “I’m ready for new training. It’s sort of a change of pace that I think’s going to work really well for all of us.”
Finally, the San Jose Mercury News reported a great anecdote of Franklin informing McKeever of her college decision during the Big Game between Cal and Stanford last year.
Sitting in the stands McKeever saw she had a voice message from the recruit. McKeever told her husband she couldn’t deal with it because of nerves over recruiting the best swimmer in a generation.
A little later a Cal assistant texted McKeever that Franklin needed to talk to her right away.
McKeever found a spot in the stadium at halftime to return the call.
“This is so hard,” Franklin told McKeever. “I appreciate all you’ve done. I’ve got to go with my heart.”
McKeever recalled thinking some phrases unsuitable for print.
Then Franklin let it out: she had chosen Cal.
“Did I get you?” Franklin teased.
The Cal swim season starts Sept. 21 and wraps up with the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis March. The roster also includes Olympic champion Rachel Bootsma and Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz.