University of Utah ignored ongoing abuse of swimmers, parents say
Parents of University of Utah swimmers concerned about the behavior of embattled coach Greg Winslow claim 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, amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old swimmer six years ago while Winslow coached in Arizona. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that parents and athletes sent "piles" of letters to the university and athletics director Chris Hill, dating as far back as February 2008.
After Matt Fiascone's son, Austin, was dismissed from the team in the fall after attending a party the weekend before Halloween, the walk-on's father said he wanted Winslow disciplined, an apology for his son and the promise of an academic scholarship for another swimmer who had been kicked off the team.
"Now I'm not stopping at that," Matt Fiascone told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday.
Fiascone said he has asked the university's Board of Trustees, a body that in the past has declined to hear his complaints, for a resolution hearing by next Friday.
"[If that doesn't happen] we are going to pursue justice all the way to the top of the university," he said. "Hill will have to go, perhaps [President David] Pershing, perhaps there will be sanctions. And I will pursue other sports, not just swimming.
"I will bring them to their knees."
In a statement issued late Friday night, the university said it was a "aware of the serious allegations about our swim program" first published in the Yahoo! report.
"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," the statement read. "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."
Hill said Saturday the university's statement released Friday will be his only response.
Reached by phone at his home in Illinois, Matt Fiascone said he had been in contact with Hill, Pershing and the Board of Trustees since November. In one email, he provided the university was a timeline of alleged misconduct by Winslow, the school's swim coach since 2007. 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.
The mother of that student said she tried to address Winslow with her concerns, but he would respond by trying to embarrass her son in front of his teammates.
"Information started falling out," said Loretta Applin, whose son Karson swam at Utah for three seasons. "Information I wasn't ready for. ... I held onto that information because I couldn't believe it."
When she was told about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day incident, however, she said she sent Hill an email.
"I keep visualizing my son on that pipe," she said.
Applin added, "I wanted the university to be aware of what I knew and what had happened to my son. I couldn't walk away. I wanted them to deal with it without it going to the media. I wanted them to deal with it and ... fix the problem and move on."
After being told Winslow would be investigated by an outside party, Fiascone said his complaints were referred to the school's Office of Equal Opportunity.
"Perhaps most concerning is that the athletic department administration has been aware of at least several of the described instances for some time, but has chosen not to exercise reasonable institutional control and has left the coach in place, putting past, present and future student athletes as well as staff in harm's way both physically and psychologically," Fiascone wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to Pershing.
The university announced Monday it had suspended Winslow and would not renew his contract. The announcement came as the Maricopa County, Ariz., Attorney's Office reviews an Arizona State University police report detailing allegations of Winslow sexually abusing a 15-year-old swimmer in 2007.
Winslow could not be reached for comment Saturday.