University of Utah swimmers and their parents had long expressed concerns about coach Greg Winslow’s behavior but said U. officials failed to take action against the swim coach until allegations of sexual abuse between Winslow and a 15-year-old girl surfaced, according to a Yahoo! Sports report published Friday.
Among the complaints reported by Yahoo! — some reportedly coming in letters dated as far back as February 2008 — included claims of forcing a swimmer to perform underwater sprints until he blacked out, buying beer for an underage swimmer, having an inappropriate relationship with a female swimmer and kicking athletes off the team without an explanation.
Swimmers and their parents wrote “piles of letters” to Utah athletic director Chris Hill addressing Winslow’s actions, according to Yahoo! Winslow was investigated formally once, and the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity did not recommend the coach be disciplined. The website quoted an anonymous student as calling it “a sham of an investigation.”
Hill could not be reached for comment, but the U. issued a statement Friday night: “The University of Utah is aware of the serious allegations about our swim program published in a Yahoo! Sports story [Friday] evening. Though we cannot comment on the specific allegations at this time, the University does not tolerate misconduct or inappropriate behavior by any member of our community. Greg Winslow was relieved of his duties as swim coach earlier this week and will have no further contact with our student-athletes. The University is investigating the reported incidents and our previous responses to them.”
Karson Applin, an African-American swimmer, was forced to swim “underwaters” — six consecutive intervals underwater, for up to 14 seconds at a time, after he jokingly asked out of a practice because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Yahoo! reported.
“According to Applin and other witnesses,” the Yahoo! report reads, “Winslow responded by taping a long piece of PVC pipe along the length of Applin’s back, then bound the pipe to his outstretched arms and ordered him back into the pool for a series of ‘underwaters’ — sprints below the water line.”
Applin reportedly had trouble coming up for air, eventually blacked out and had to be brought above water by a teammate.
Former Utah swimmer Lauren Hewson was “forced to swim underwaters with a mesh bag over her head,” prompting her mother to write to Hill, according to Yahoo!
“Utah did not respond at all,” Jurgens said. “I never heard from Chris Hill.”
On Monday, Hill announced the university would not renew Winslow’s contract. The coach had been suspended earlier amid allegations he sexually abused a 15-year-old swimmer in Arizona in 2007, before coming to Utah.
The decision is in “the interest of our current student-athletes, future recruits and the general well-being of our swimming and diving program,” Hill said in a statement, adding Winslow would remain on paid administrative leave until further notice as an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against him proceeds.