With his change in status, Merritt will immediately forego his collegiate athletic eligibility just a week away from the start of the NCAA Indoor Championships where he was favored for national titles in the 200- and 400-meter dash. In addition, he will not represent ECU in any upcoming outdoor events this spring.
Merritt signed a four-year contract, which included a signing bonus, with Nike to begin his professional track career after competing in just five collegiate indoor meets.
\"The offer was something LaShawn couldn\'t turn down,\" said ECU Head Men\'s Track Coach Bill Carson. \"I tried to advise him to wait until after the season to perhaps enhance his leverage or standing but Nike\'s package was simply too lucrative at this time. They felt a sense of urgency to market him for competition in June and, when you consider the addition of appearance fees, it became impossible for LaShawn not to sign.\"
Along with his record-breaking performance in the 400 at the Powered by Tyson Invitational on February 11 in Fayetteville, Ark., Merritt went on to win the 200-meter dash in 20.40 seconds the following day, which also set a new indoor world junior record and met the NCAA automatic indoor qualifying standard on both occasions.
Merritt also captured the 200- and 400-meter titles at the Conference USA Championships in Houston Feb. 26 to earn C-USA Freshman-of-the-Year honors. He also became the first athlete in league history to win four player-of-the-week awards in the same season.
Merritt will continue to attend classes at East Carolina for the remainder of the semester and serve the Pirates\' program in a voluntary on-campus coaching capacity.
Carson also indicated Merritt would continue to utilize ECU\'s facilities for his personal training purposes.