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U. appoints independent investigators in swim coach allegations

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Chris Detrick | Salt Lake Tribune file photo University of Utah President David Pershing

By Aaron Falk

and Lindsay Whitehurst

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 11 2013 09:22AM
Updated Mar 12, 2013 08:01AM

The University of Utah has appointed independent investigators to review the school’s handling of complaints by student athletes and their parents regarding embattled swim coach Greg Winslow.

On Monday morning, Utah President David Pershing announced Michael Glazier, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, and Alan Sullivan, a Salt Lake City attorney, would lead the investigation.

"This past week, public reports of alleged misconduct by a former swim coach and of the University of Utah’s response to those allegations have called into question the university’s processes and our commitment to our student-athletes," Pershing said in a news release. "Though I cannot comment on specific allegations, I can state unequivocally that any conduct by a staff member or student that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of any student will not be tolerated."

Pershing said he had specifically asked Glazier and Sullivan "to determine what, if any, incidents occurred within the swimming program; when did those incidents take place; what information was conveyed to the University about these incidents; what, if any, actions were taken in response; and what recommendations, if implemented, would better ensure the safety and well-being of our student athletes at the university."

The investigation follows a series of allegations regarding the school’s swimming program. Last week, the university announced it had suspended Winslow and would not renew his contract amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old girl six years ago in Arizona.

But parents of former swimmers allege the school’s athletics department overlooked or improperly investigated allegations of physical and psychological abuse and failed to protect the confidentiality of whistle-blowing athletes.

Parents expressed myriad concerns about the coach even before Winslow was suspended and the university announced it would not renew his contract. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that parents and athletes sent "piles" of letters to the university, dating as far back as February 2008.

The allegations against Winslow included:

• Showing up to practices hungover or still drunk

• Having outbursts of anger, at one time throwing bags full of ankle weights at an athlete in a hotel

• Failing to report two swimmers being caught buying marijuana on a trip to Arizona

• Missing competitions

• Punching an assistant coach

• Taping a PVC pipe to the back, arms and hands of a black swimmer who had joked about being let of out practice for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2010, then forcing the student-athlete to swim underwater sprints until he blacked out in the pool.

Athletics director Chris Hill would not discuss when he first learned of the allegations against Winslow, saying he wanted to be "pure on the process."

A former associate athletic director, Pete Oliszczak, was directly over the school’s swimming and diving team. Oliszczak, who was at the University of North Dakota in the late 1990s at the same time Winslow was a swimmer there, left the department in November of last year.

An email obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune shows the Hill responded to one parent’s written complaint around the same time. That email started an investigation by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity, which ultimately found the allegations — including a separate claim of sexual misconduct —did not warrant punishment.

Hill would not say if Olisczak’s departure was related to the investigation into Winslow.

When asked if he had ever been concerned about the safety of the swimmers on the team, Hill flatly said, "No."

"But we’ll find out more if we do," he added. "The reality is, today on is looking at trying to find everything we did, everything we should have done, everything that’s out there. And then it’s complete."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk

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