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Brad Rock: Chris Hill's mistake? Leaving it up to his associate

Published: Tuesday, July 2 2013 6:05 p.m. MDT

Chris Hill, athletic director for the University of Utah, speaks as the U. releases findings from their swim team coach investigation in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 2, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — I never should have coasted through a stop sign, with a highway patrolman lurking, a few years back. I shouldn’t have ordered the fish sandwich at a fast-food place in El Paso, either.

Signing up for freshman trigonometry in college was a disaster from the start.

Suffice it to say I paid a price for each of the choices.

Judging by the fatigue in Utah athletics director Chris Hill’s eyes on Tuesday, he too paid a price for not firing Greg Winslow after learning that his swim coach had attacked an assistant coach while drunk in 2011.

Hill shouldn’t have relied solely on his associate athletics director, Pete Oliszczak, either.

Thus on Tuesday, results of the independent investigation of the Ute swimming program were released at a downtown news conference. The findings: Winslow was, to some, a psychologically abusive, alcoholic coach who should have been fired two years ago. He had athletes do questionable underwater swim drills that some said were physically abusive, though the investigators said those were hard to verify and quantify. The alcohol issue, though, was clear.

Winslow had a problem that was never adequately addressed.

It’s not as though Hill did nothing about his problematic swim coach. He authorized an investigation into allegations of abuse and racism last year. (That turned up nothing.) What he didn’t do was look deeply into the e-mail from Oliszczak that said Winslow had been involved in an “altercation” at a Portland bar. Turned out it was an attack on assistant coach Charlie King.

The executive summary report said, Oliszczak “failed to provide Chris Hill with sufficient information” about Winslow’s alcoholism.

“Greg … recognized that he has a problem with alcoholism and is seeking counseling effective immediately … I need to meet with him on a weekly (basis) to monitor his progress,” Oliszczak said in an e-mail to Hill.

The investigation said there was no evidence the meetings happened.

“Nevertheless,” the report added, “the investigators do not believe that Chris Hill adequately followed up on the limited information he received from his associate athletics director on this issue in July 2011. If he had followed up to obtain complete information about Winslow’s continuing alcohol problems, Hill would have had sufficient reason to terminate Winslow’s employment by early 2012.”

As it was, nothing happened until Winslow’s name showed up again in early 2013, this time involving accusations of fondling an Arizona teen in 2007, before Winslow was hired at Utah. Last month the Maricopa County Attorney’s office said it would not seek criminal charges against Winslow.

Hill admitted on Tuesday that Oliszczak’s e-mail should have been “a red flag.”

“No question at that point in time I should have had (Oliszczak) define what an altercation is, I should have brought the people in and talked to him and should have either fired the coach or suspended him and found out more, and as a university employee, put him in some kind of program,” Hill said.

“I should have thoroughly investigated that e-mail.”

Whether Hill’s lack of oversight is reason for firing is doubtful. Hill didn’t order a cover up. Besides, he has 18 varsity sports to administer. Hill did talk to Winslow in 2009 about conducting “underwater” drills that made some swimmers feel endangered. That problem seemed to clear up shortly after.

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