ASU, Olympic swim coach Bob Bowman apologizes for 'inappropriate' text messages

Arizona State Sun Devils men's and women's swimming coach Bob Bowman has apologized for sending "inappropriate" text messages following an interview in which a former Olympic swimmer revealed that Bowman and another former coach sent her sexually explicit text messages and a voicemail.

Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle told Southern California News Group that Bowman, head coach of the 2016 U.S. Olympic men's swim team and coach of 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, and fellow former U.S. national team coach Sean Hutchison sent her those messages in 2011. 

“I was a 24-year-old female swimmer who had retired way too young but was sick of all the (garbage). I wanted to change lives and do different things but felt trapped," Burckle said in an interview with Southern California News Group. “I was disgusted. I felt violated, felt sad too. This was a sport that I had just left and loved and so I felt very sad.”

Following the publication of Burckle's interview, Bowman released the following statement to swimswam.com: “I regret the exercise of poor judgment in being involved one evening 7 years ago with inappropriate communications. 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.”

Per the Los Angeles Daily News, Burckle reported the incident in 2011 to USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming in the U.S. It was originally reported to assistant coach Jack Roach, who passed it along to national team director Frank Busch.

“In 2011, USA Swimming was made aware of inappropriate texts sent to an adult former member athlete by a member coach," USA Swimming said in a statement. "The organization does not condone this type of communication no matter the relationship between the parties. The issue was addressed by USA Swimming, and warning letters were issued to the offending parties, which also included a non-athlete member in the presence of the coach.”

But despite being warned about the "severity of the situation" by Busch in 2011, Bowman went on to be named an assistant coach on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team -- and in a separate statement to swimswam.com, ASU said it was unaware of Burckle's complaint when Bowman was hired to be the school's swim coach in 2015.  

"In fact, in discussions with USA Swimming about the possibility of hiring Mr. Bowman, then USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch highly recommended Mr. Bowman to ASU," ASU said in its statement.

ASU said Sun Devils athletic director Ray Anderson has reviewed the situation and discussed it with Bowman.

"Mr. Bowman also stated that he apologized to the complainant for the text message exchange in the presence of his supervisor, Mr. Busch. The review of this matter also indicates that ASU has not received any allegations of misconduct from ASU students, faculty or staff, or non-ASU affiliated individuals related to Mr. Bowman," ASU said in its statement.

"In a letter to Mr. Bowman, Mr. Anderson has communicated to Mr. Bowman that the text message exchange was inappropriate and unprofessional and that no such incidents will be tolerated at ASU. Mr. Anderson has also reminded Mr. Bowman of the standards of behavior expected of him and all ASU employees."

The 53-year-old Bowman served as the head coach of the 2016 U.S. Olympic men's swim team and as an assistant coach at the 2004, '08 and '12 Olympics. He was named Pac-12 Men's Swimming Coach of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

Hutchison became the subject of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security following allegations that he sexually assaulted former world-record swimmer Ariana Kukorks when she was 16 years old.

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