University of Utah AD Chris Hill vows to look into allegations aimed at athletics dept.
SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah athletics director Chris Hill spoke to the Deseret News on Saturday regarding allegations that his athletic department didn't properly address misconduct in the U. swimming and diving program.
The allegations became public in the wake of swim coach Greg Winslow's dismissal.
Hill announced last Monday that Utah would not renew the contract of Winslow, who has been accused of child sexual abuse during a previous job in Arizona.
Since then, reports of a lack of action for alleged misconduct by Winslow at Utah have surfaced among various sources.
A published report by Yahoo Sports quotes the parent of a former swimmer saying that Hill knew of problems in the swimming program for years but did nothing about them. Another parent told the Deseret News he had similar concerns about the program and that he had kept quiet for 31/2 years so his son wouldn't suffer any consequences, before complaining to Hill and other university officials last fall after his son was dismissed from the team.
"I talked to President (David) Pershing today and I assured him that we'd find out what the athletic department knew, when we knew it and see what we need to do to take corrective measures," Hill said. "This is important, for sure, and we want to make sure we do our due diligence on all this going backwards and forward. We don't want any stone unturned and that's what we're determined to do."
Matt Fiascone, father of former Ute backstroke standout Austin Fiascone, wrote a letter to Hill and others detailing problems within the swimming program earlier this year.
"As soon as Mr. Fiascone sent me a letter, I immediately sent it down to the legal counsel and gave it to President Pershing," Hill said. "I said, 'Could you find people to look into it because it needs to be independent of athletics?' I wanted to make sure I gave it the respect and seriousness I needed to."
When asked about allegations that he knew about problems with the swimming program several years ago, Hill was not as clear.
"What I don't want to do is not cover all the bases," he said. "We know a lot, but we want to make sure we know everything. That's what I can tell you today. A lot of things are out there and I want to make sure I cover everything. We're going to look into everything. And everything means everything."
Winslow, who began coaching at Utah in the fall of 2007, was suspended by the university on Feb. 28 amid reports from Arizona that he sexually abused a 15-year-old girl in his previous job as coach at Sun Devil Aquatics from 2003 to 2007. Then earlier this week, the university announced that Winslow's contract would not be renewed for next year.
The Yahoo Sports story quotes a parent of a former swimmer saying she had brought concerns to Hill and the university five years earlier. Suzanne Jurgens said she first wrote to Hill in May 2009 about concerns that her daughter was humiliated by having a mesh bag put over her head and having her legs taped together — among other things.
Matt Fiascone, meanwhile, wrote of his concerns to the university after his son was suddenly dismissed from the team in November, accusing the coach of alcohol abuse, verbal abuse, assault of an assistant coach and many other negative issues related to the program.
Austin Fiascone and Karson Applin are among some two dozen swimmers who were either kicked off the team or quit the team since Winslow became head coach.
Both Fiascone and Applin say they were dismissed from the team with little explanation. Applin was dismissed in August, the first week of school, while Fiascone was let go in November.
"This team is going forward without you," is what Fiascone, who at the time was ranked No. 15 in the nation in the 100-meter backstroke, says Winslow told him. Fiascone suspects it was because he reported Winslow's actions to the compliance department.
As for Applin's dismissal, "All he said in my last meeting was I had too many things stacked up against me," Applin said.
Applin, an African-American, filed a complaint with the university's Office of Equal Opportunity after alleging Winslow used a racial slur toward him during a meet in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2010. Applin also says Winslow taped a PVC pipe to his back and made him do "underwaters" in an effort to embarrass him in front of the team.
The OEO investigated the complaint starting in November, and after an investigation that reportedly included more than 50 individuals, concluded in late January that no disciplinary action was needed. When asked by the Deseret News for a copy of the report, the OEO director said she couldn't even confirm that any investigation had taken place.
Another former Ute swimmer, Andy Choi, disputed Applin's claim of being singled out, saying he'd seen Winslow use the PVC pipe training device "multiple times" on various swimmers during his time as a member of the team from 2008 to 2012.
However, Choi did say Winslow made minorities such as himself uncomfortable with some of his comments to the team.
"In terms of racial insensitivity, I am a racial minority and during my tenure, I remember speaking out in practice with a concern that the comments he was making could be construed as racially insensitive," he said.
Rick Mason, who swam for Utah from 2007 to 2011, told the Deseret News that during a trip to Mexico in 2008 he blacked out after doing "underwaters" and was convulsing afterward. His teammates were told by coaches not to help him and he fell and chipped a tooth.
He said his mother was "furious" about what happened and contacted the coaches. After that, Mason said he suffered "verbal abuse" from coach Winslow and "serious negative issues" in his remaining two years on the team.
Two former Utah assistant coaches who resigned in 2012, Charlie King and Lisa Pursley, were contacted by the Deseret News, but both declined to comment about their time at Utah or why they left.
Hill also wouldn't comment on former assistant athletic director Pete Oliszczak, who was directly over the swimming program and had apparently met with parents concerning complaints about Winslow, according to the Yahoo Sports report. Oliszczak abruptly resigned last fall and moved out of state.
"That's a personnel matter," Hill said. "He's moved on and that's all I can tell you."
Even though Winslow is gone, Hill says he will do what's "right" in the aftermath of the allegations made against his athletic department.
"There are some things that happened and the important thing to me is that we do it right and find out what happened, what the athletic department knew, what we need to do about it," Hill said.
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