While wooing blue chip recruit Tom Dolan in 1991, legendary Michigan men’s swimming and diving coach Jon Urbanchek knew he had to knock the All-American’s socks off.
He brought Dolan, an eventual two-time Olympic Gold medallist, into a small campus diner called Washington Street Station. At the same time, former Michigan basketball coach Steve Fisher was enticing two superstar athletes who would leave an undeniable mark on Michigan sports, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard.
Dolan double-taked, then couldn’t stop staring.
“Tom’s eyes were just popping out,” Urbanchek said with a laugh.
Urbanchek admitted that the allure of such Michigan basketball recruits helped Dolan sign with Michigan and eventually become one of the University’s greatest athletes.
These same figures and images of the “Fab Five” are reasons people around the globe with no affiliation to the University wear Michigan memorabilia. They may even be reasons that caught your eye when deciding your college choice – even more so than the prestigious academic reputation the University holds.
But with every Webber or Howard, there’s a Dolan – a swimmer who won national acclaim at the college level before representing the United States valiantly in winning two gold medals.
He excelled in the pool and in the classroom. And he found time to give back, helping at Mott’s Children’s Hospital religiously.
He was a true “Michigan man.”
But while he was one of the classiest and most successful Wolverines, he was certainly not the most recognizable.
He could definitely walk down the street and no one would notice him.
Dolan is just one reason why while you should remain entertained with Michigan’s football and basketball teams but admire those in the non-revenue or Olympic sports.
They are the sports that help make Michigan’s sports tradition one unlike any other.
You may not believe it, but it’s true.
While you couldn’t have picked out Dolan, any one of you could find Webber in a crowd. This is the same Webber who now can be remembered just as much for the dirty money he took from “booster” Eddie Martin and a scandal that has kept a dark cloud over the program and the University over the past decade.
“It’s may not be fair, but it’s life.”
That’s exactly what Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said last year at a speech in the Business School, saying that “99 percent of the University’s image comes from athletics” and nearly all of that image comes from football and basketball.
It’s also no coincidence that nearly 99 percent of the revenue and funding for most of the other 25 Michigan sports that Urbanchek says are often jokingly labeled “pain in the budget sports” – comes from football.
As an assistant for the U.S. Olympic swimming teams, Urbanchek has been to several countries, noticing that people around the globe don sweathshirts with the block “M” proudly stitched on its chest.
And he knows they didn’t pick their wardrobe because of the 33 individual NCAA titles and 126 Big Ten titles his swimming program has won since 1983, or the first women’s national championship this season in field hockey, or the 11 Big Ten softball titles Michigan has won in the past 14 years.
It’s not just a clich