Review: Swim coach should've been fired sooner

Tuesday , July 02, 2013 - 3:28 PM

Dr. Chris Hill...

Brady McCombs

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah should have fired former swim coach Greg Winslow by no later than early 2012 for alcohol abuse that was corrosive to the entire team, an independent investigation has found.

According to the findings revealed Tuesday, during his first two years, Winslow used psychological manipulation against his swimmers to motivate by fear. While some swimmers and assistant coaches considered his style to be creative and innovative, many others considered it abusive and cruel with one assistant coaching saying, “Greg was a manipulator, not a motivator.”

But the review concluded Winslow, 38, did not physically or sexually abuse his swimmers or use racial discrimination in his six-year tenure.

University of Utah President David Pershing and Athletic Director Chris Hill appeared at a news conference Tuesday alongside Salt Lake City attorney Allan Sullivan to discuss the results of an investigation of Winslow’s tenure.

Hill will retain his job despite being reprimanded by investigators for failing to act more quickly. Pershing said he’s disappointed in Hill, but said Hill has taken responsibility for his mistakes and is prepared to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Investigators recommended the university make four changes to avoid similar problems in the future. Those include establishing standards of coaching behavior; setting enforcement standards; creating rules for substance abuse for coaches; and instructing student-athletes to report coaching abuses directly to the athletic directors.

The investigation was done over more than three months by Sullivan and attorney Michael Glazier of Kansas City, Mo. They reviewed dozens of emails and interviewed more than 50 swimmers, assistant coaches and others with knowledge of the situation.

The university fired Winslow earlier this year after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused a teenage girl he coached in Arizona. Arizona prosecutors announced last month they would not press charges against Winslow, saying they didn’t find sufficient evidence in the sex abuse case.

In March, the university announced it would pay for an outside review of Winslow’s time in Utah to see if there was any wrongdoing.

Despite multiple attempts, Sullivan said Winslow did not grant investigators an interview. It is unclear whether Winslow has an attorney. A phone number called by The Associated Press was not in service.

Investigators concluded that university officials adequately responded to complaints of psychological abuse in 2009, putting a halt to Winslow’s questionable training methods.

But Hill and former assistant athletic director Pete Oliszczak didn’t act quickly enough when it became apparent that Winslow’s alcohol abuse was out of control, the investigators found. The Associated Press was unable to contact Oliszczak by telephone.

In the summer of 2011, Winslow beat up assistant coach Charlie King outside a bar in Portland, Ore., after a swim meet. Sullivan described the incident as a one-sided beating during a “drunken rage.” Sullivan’s report says Winslow should have been fired sometime at that point and by no later than early 2012.

“It’s hard for us to understand why the athletic department would choose to retain Winslow as a coach,” said Sullivan, referring to the Portland beating.

Investigators found Oliszczak, who was fired in the fall of 2012 prior to the investigation of Winslow being launched, was the primary culprit of not properly addressing Winslow’s alcohol abuse. For instance, his email about the Portland beating says only that Winslow hit Charlie and that Winslow was going to seek alcohol abuse treatment.

Despite the less-than-thorough email, Sullivan said athletic director Hill did not give enough attention to a memo that should have raised a red flag.

“He failed to ask the questions he should have asked,” Sullivan said.

Hill apologized to former and current swimmers and to coaches and athletes in the university’s other programs for any damage the situation has caused them. During Tuesday’s news conference, Hill spoke at times with a shaky voice and appeared to be holding back tears.

He defended his actions in putting a halt to the questionable training methods, emphasizing that swimmers were never in danger. He said he never considered resigning.

“I knew what I did, I knew what I could do better,” Hill said. “This is personal for me, this place. If I thought I was in the way of having things be successful, I wouldn’t want to do it.”

Pershing said he decided to retain Hill because of his track record and his sincere remorse. Hill has been athletic director since 1987.

Pershing said the university will implement the recommendations, and in addition, create two high-level positions that will give student athletes clear pathways outside of the athletic department to submit complaints about coaches.

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