Fame and fortune is not all that lures young athletes away from their degrees.
Swimmer Anthony Ervin, who won gold and silver medals at the 2000 Olympics while a UC Berkeley student, gave up both swimming and school in 2003 to play rock music in New York. He got tattooed and began smoking.
"I just knew that I wasn't ready" to finish school, he said on the Berkeley campus, to which he returned in 2008. "There was no thirst that I needed to quench in the academic sphere. I just needed to go live life for a while."
After returning to Cal, Ervin quit smoking, started swimming again and, with Van Rheenen's help, finished his bachelor's degree in English. The 30-year-old Southern California native is working on a master's degree and is among the favorites to make the U.S. team for this year's Olympics in London.
"Maybe you should be a few years older to truly appreciate what a university has to offer," Ervin said.