Which American college sends the best athletes to compete for the red, white and blue at the Olympics? Medal tables tell one story but we've taken a more arbitrary look by assigning weight to the quality of athletes and the quality of their medals. Winning a 1948 canoeing gold medal is great, but what about the 100-meter dash in a world-record time? That's how we came about our list of the five schools who've produced the greatest American Olympians ever. It's hard to place all athletes consistently. Missy Franklin become an Olympic star while in high school, swam two years at Cal in between Olympic cycles and is now technically not a Cal athlete because she went pro. Still, we'll include her on the Bears team. Michael Phelps, on the other hand, is only part of the Michigan family because his coach, Bob Bowman, went to Ann Arbor and Phelps followed him to train, taking a few classes along the way. Phelps never swam for the Wolverines and thus isn't considered a Michigan athlete. (Sorry, blue.) With that, here are our rankings of the schools with the highest-quality Olympians.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Top athletes: Janet Evans (swimming), Logan Tom (volleyball), Julie Foudy (soccer), Bob Mathias (track), Pablo Morales (swimming), Summer Sanders (swimming), Kerri Strug (gymnastics), Jenny Thompson (swimming), Kerri Walsh (beach volleyball), Bob and Mike Bryan (tennis) Fact: The Cardinal had the most athletes in 2008, 2012 and 2016 (and possibly before - I couldn't find information for the Athens Games and earlier). They also had medals in the most sports in 2012, with athletes in seven different disciplines making the podium.
AFP/Getty ImagesKIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV
Top athletes: Shirley Babashoff (swimming), Evelyn Ashford (track), Tim Daggett (gymnastics), Florence Griffith-Joyner (track), Tom Jager (swimming), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track), Karch Kiraly (volleyball), Gail Devers (track), Mike Powell (track), Mike Marsh (track), Lisa Fernandez (softball), Dawn Harper (track), Sydney Leroux (soccer) Fact: This ranking won't please the No. 3 team on our list, but it's a no-brainer as UCLA can boast two of the greatest female track stars in the history of the Olympics, plus a slew of world-record holders past and present. UCLA also nails the secondary sports, with Karch Kiraly and Lisa Fernandez boasting Bruin pride.
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Top athletes: Allyson Felix (track), Lenny Krayzelburg (swimming), Lisa Leslie (basketball), John Naber (swimming), Rebecca Soni (swimming), Tina Thompson (basketball), Parry O'Brien (track), Steve Timmons (volleyball). Fact: A Trojan has won a gold medal in every Olympics since 1912. USC also the has most golds and the most medals of any color. If the university had competed as a country in 2012, they'd have finished six in the gold-medal count. (As with every university, a lot of their greatest athletes compete for different countries. USC seems to have more international flavor than the other top Olympic schools however which is why they finish third.)
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
Top athletes: Mary T. Meagher (swimming), Matt Biondi (swimming), Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Missy Franklin (swimming), Nathian Adrian (swimming), Dana Vollmer (swimming), Brandi Chastain (soccer), Anthony Ervin (swimming), Alex Morgan (soccer) Fact: A list of the top 10 American swimmers of all time would likely include at least three Bears.
Getty ImagesSimon Bruty
Top athletes: Ryan Lochte (swimming), Dara Torres (swimming), Dennis Mitchell (track), Tracy Caulkins (swimming), Heather Mitts (soccer), Christian Taylor (track), Abby Wambach (soccer) Fact: The first non-California school on the list, Florida boasts the most dominant male swimmer of the 2000s (at least one who swam in college, at least) and one of the best soccer players as well. Track stars Dennis Mitchell and Christian Taylor both won gold in their respective Games.