Arizona State swim coach accused of sending graphic texts to Olympian

Jul 24, 2018, 4:42 PM | Updated: 9:07 pm
(Facebook/Sun Devil Swimming and Diving)...
(Facebook/Sun Devil Swimming and Diving)
(Facebook/Sun Devil Swimming and Diving)

PHOENIX — Bob Bowman, the head coach of Arizona State University’s swimming and diving teams and longtime coach of Olympian Michael Phelps, was accused of sending “sexually graphic text messages and a voicemail” to an Olympic swimmer in 2011.

According to The Orange County Register, Bowman and Sean Hutchison, in their capacities as U.S. national team coaches, allegedly sent the messages and voicemail to former swimming medalist Caroline Burckle in May 2011. Burckle was 24 at the time and had recently retired from the sport.

The texts were sent from a phone that allegedly belonged to Bowman. The details of the text messages were not disclosed.

Burckle reported the text messages to USA Swimming national team assistant coach Jack Roach, who forwarded them to USA Swimming national team director Frank Busch.

Busch then put Bowman on notice in relation to the incident and said in a June 2011 letter that “it is important you understand the severity of this situation.”

But less than three months later, Busch named Bowman to the 2012 Olympic team coaching staff.

He would then go on to be named the head coach of the 2016 Olympic team. Bowman was also named Pac-12 swimming coach of the year in 2017.

Michael Phelps, right, speaks to the media after practice as coach Bob Bowman listens Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Burckle said she decided to come forward with the incident, which has “haunted” her for years, because she wanted to change the culture within swimming and Olympic sports.

“For me, it’s the principle of it,” Burckle told The Orange County Register.

“It’s about giving people the respect they deserve and shouldn’t have to ask for. It’s about creating a feeling of support within your (sports) community, athletes you feel respected and supported,” she added.

“It’s about empowering a younger generation of athletes. Athletes shouldn’t have to act a certain way to please their male coach.”

The incident involving Bowman surfaced last week. Hutchison left his post as CEO of the King Aquatic Club in February after former world champion swimmer Ariana Kukors alleged that he sexually abused her from the time she was 16.

In a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday, an Arizona State University official said the university was not aware of the complaint from Burckle when Bowman was hired in 2015 and only learned about the incident through the July 19 press inquiry.

The university’s Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson told Bowman that the text message exchange was “inappropriate and unprofessional” and that no such incidents will be tolerated at Arizona State University.

The university has not received any allegations of misconduct from students, faculty or staff, the statement said.

Bowman also issued a statement to Swim Swam about the incident, calling it an “exercise of poor judgment.

“I promptly apologized to the person to whom the communications were sent and my apology was accepted. I have nothing further to say at this time.”

Burckle said Bowman had apologized to her about the incident, but added that she had never heard from Hutchison.

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Arizona State swim coach accused of sending graphic texts to Olympian