Phelps' pro status prevents participation

Updated: April 3, 2004, 8:27 PM ET
By Eric Adelson | ESPN The Magazine

From Athens to Ann Arbor?

That's the probable post-Olympic path for swimming phenom Michael Phelps, whose professional status prevents him from competing for Michigan but not from enrolling at the university this fall.

"It's a viable and leading option for him," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, who will be the next head coach at Michigan, it was announced Thursday. "It's a very attractive situation."

In the 2004 Games, 18-year-old Phelps is expected to challenge Mark Spitz's all-time record of seven gold medals in one Olympics.

Phelps refused to comment on his own plans when reached at his Baltimore home Thursday evening, but he did say Bowman's decision to move to Michigan will not change their relationship. "I will be working with Bob after Athens," Phelps said.

When asked if Bowman could continue coaching Phelps if he didn't move to Michigan, Bowman cast down on the possibility.

"If he doesn't come to Michigan, then, well, I'll be in Michigan," Bowman said.

Bowman got a call in February from retiring Michigan coach John Urbanchek, who has coached swimming at Michigan for 22 years and won a national title in 1995. Bowman hesitated at first, but after a visit to the campus last week and an ensuing offer, he agreed to take the job.

Bowman has coached Phelps to 13 world records and 20 American records at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where Bowman took his current position when Phelps was 10.

Urbanchek has publicly praised Phelps, saying, "Michael Phelps is the closest to Mark Spitz that we have in this country."

Phelps became the youngest male Olympian since 1932 when he competed in the Sydney Games of 2000. He holds world records in the 200-meter butterfly, the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter individual medley. Phelps graduated from Towson High School in May, turned pro and is now swimming full time.

Bowman says he made the decision "based on what was best for me," but he said Phelps' name came up in discussions with Michigan and that he and Phelps discussed the job offer at great length. Bowman will move to Michigan in September after the Athens Games in August.

Eric Adelson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at eric.adelson@espn3.com.

Eric Adelson | email

ESPN The Magazine
Eric Adelson was a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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