Cashing Out Jeremy Bloom wanted to play for Colorado so badly that he gave up lucrative skiing endorsements

September 22, 2002

The good life beckoned to Jeremy Bloom from Chile, where his U.S.
Ski Team buddies spent the month of August carving up Andean snow
and grilled South American bistec. It called to him from Beverly
Hills, where Tommy Hilfiger had contracted the 20-year-old to
frolic with supermodels as part of a print-ad campaign. Gifted
with a skiing ability that earned him ninth place in the Olympic
moguls event in Salt Lake City last February and a soap-star
smolder that has attracted a female following usually reserved
for boy bands, Bloom could be leading a life that exists
primarily in Skyy Vodka ads. If only he weren't so good at
catching footballs.

Bloom, who has won both a World Cup moguls title and a Colorado
high school state football championship over the past two years,
has shelved a perk-laden ski career to compete as a freshman
wide receiver at Colorado. Although the U.S. ski staff and
Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett had given Bloom their blessing to
devote the fall to football and the spring to skiing, a
one-size-fits-all NCAA bylaw prevents him from accepting
sponsorship money. The rule was upheld on Aug. 19 by an
apologetic district court judge who denied Bloom's request for
an injunction but chastised the NCAA for its inflexibility.

The problem? Skiers, who earn little prize money, rely on
endorsements to finance the high costs of travel and training
(up to $100,000 a year) that come with elite-level competition.
So unlike the Division I football players who play minor league
baseball during the summer--the NCAA deems second-sport salaries
an acceptable source of earnings for scholarship athletes--Bloom
must give up a six-figure endorsement income by cutting ties
with Oakley, Under Armour and others. He'll now be hard-pressed
to fund his 2003 World Cup campaign.

"Corporate sponsors can be fickle," says agent Andy Carroll, who
represents Bloom the skier. "If Jeremy wants to start competing
again, it's going to be tough for him to pick up where he left
off."

No one would have faulted Bloom for dusting off his Dynastars and
heading for the hills after losing his battle with the NCAA.
Instead he stayed put in the cramped Colorado dorm room he has
shared with a 230-pound linebacker since the beginning of August
and traded the jet-set lifestyle for two-a-day practices,
powder-covered bumps for Frisbee-sized bruises. During the final
week of preseason practices in August, a few teammates couldn't
help but shake their heads when catching his eye. "I keep
hearing, 'Man, you're crazy to give up all that money!'" says
Bloom. "But long before I started skiing, it was my dream to play
college football." An honor roll student who had 1,116 receiving
yards as a senior at Loveland (Colo.) High, Bloom is also intent
on earning a bachelor's degree.

Judging from the rave reviews coming out of the Colorado football
offices, Bloom's decision was hardly a flight of fancy. His work
ethic and self-deprecating manner endeared him to those players
who half expected a preening pretty boy to show up to summer
workouts, and by the team's first game against Colorado State on
Aug. 31, Bloom had elevated himself to the team's No. 4 receiver
and its top punt returner. In the opener, Bloom returned a punt
75 yards for a touchdown. Against San Diego State the following
week he returned two punts for 36 total yards but suffered a
broken toe that kept him out of last Saturday's match against
USC. "He has body control you don't see in first-year players,
which must come from the precise kind of skiing he does," says
receivers coach Jon Embree. "And for a guy who's barely 5'9", 170
pounds, he can take a hit."

Although his small stature will likely prevent him from one day
attaining the same kind of pro stardom in football that he found
in skiing, Bloom is contented by the support he's gotten in
Boulder and beyond. "E-mails, like one I received from a mom in
Iowa who said I was a role model for her kids, have helped me
feel good about the choices I've made," says Bloom, who's looking
into alternative ways to finance a 2006 Olympic run. "It's when
the snow starts coming down that I might start second-guessing
myself."

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN BAHR/ALLSPORT (INSET) FLYING Bloom finished ninth in moguls at the Salt Lake City Games and has excelled as a punt returner. COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO [See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
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