While a group appointed by the University of Utah continues to look at the school’s swim team and how the athletics department handled ongoing reports of physical and psychological abuse of student athletes, federal investigators have begun to scrutinize as well.
The Office of Civil Rights is investigating a complaint involving “allegations of Title VI [race] and Title IX [sex] discrimination relative to the University of Utah swim team,” a Department of Education spokesman confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday.
A criminal investigation in Maricopa County, Ariz., revealed in late February set off a chain of events that led to the suspension and eventual dismissal of U. swim coach Greg Winslow, and a university-sponsored investigation of the school’s athletics department followed.
With the school’s investigation, handled by Salt Lake attorney Alan Sullivan and Kansas City, Mo., attorney Michael Glazier ongoing, the U. declined to comment on the OCR complaint when contacted Tuesday.
“While that investigation is still underway, we just don’t think it’s appropriate,” spokesman Keith Sterling said Tuesday.
Winslow was suspended in late May after U. officials said they first received word of a criminal investigation by detectives at Arizona State University. A report alleged Winslow sexually abused a 15-year-old swimmer while coaching in Arizona in 2007. But months after the findings were turned over to prosecutors, no formal charges have been filed.
The U. eventually announced it would not renew Winslow’s contract, which ended earlier this year. But in the process, media reports shed light on years of written correspondence from swimmers and their families to the athletics department, alleging abusive behavior by Winslow. Those complaints included allegations of showing up drunk or hungover at practices; failing to report two swimmers who were caught buying marijuana on a trip to Arizona; punching an assistant coach; having an improper relationship with a female swimmer; and buying an underage swimmer beer.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill has declined to discuss his knowledge of the complaints that had been lodged over the years, saying he did not want to taint the investigation.
But parents who talked to The Tribune said Hill was directly contacted on multiple occasions, dating back to the spring of 2009.
The university’s Board of Trustees said Tuesday it had five trustees working on the investigation of the swimming team and the athletic department’s handling of complaints.