SALT LAKE CITY — A team of independent investigators hired by the University of Utah to examine allegations related to the school's men's and women's swimming and diving teams, which focused on the alleged misconduct of former coach Greg Winslow, announced its findings at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Most notably, the committee believes Winslow should have been fired by early 2012 due to alcohol abuse, which it said was continuous and adversely affected Winslow’s ability to fulfill his coaching responsibilities throughout much of his time at Utah.
Winslow was initially suspended from his position in February due to allegations of sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl in 2007 while working with a club team in Arizona. Arizona authorities recently announced Winslow will not face charges in that case. Since the February suspension, allegations of physical, psychological and alcohol abuse during Winslow's time at Utah also surfaced.
In March, the university decided to not renew Winslow’s contract and hired a team of investigators, which consisted of Mike Glazier, John T. Nielsen and Alan L. Sullivan, to examine the accusations.
The committee determined that while the athletics department responded appropriately to information regarding psychological and alleged physical abuse, athletics director Chris Hill and Pete Oliszczak, the former associate athletics director who held supervising responsibility for the swim program, did not adequately or effectively follow through on information regarding the former coach’s problems with alcohol.
According to the findings, Winslow's excessive use of alcohol was common knowledge among members of the swim team and greatly “diminished his ability to coach, impose discipline, and retain coaches and athletes.” Assistant coach Charlie King told investigators Winslow attended practices and meets hung-over or drunk throughout much of his tenure with the Utah team.
Winslow also reportedly was under the influence of alcohol when, in July 2011, he was accused of assaulting King outside a bar in Portland, where the men were attending a swimming competition. The incident, which was reported to Oliszczak and then to Hill via email, was the first time Hill said he knew of the coach’s battles with alcohol.
“In the email it said ‘an altercation’ (had occurred),” Hill said. “There’s no question that at that point in time, I should have had (Oliszczak) define what ‘an altercation’ is and I should have either fired the coach or suspended him to find out more and, as a university employee, put him in some kind of program.”
Instead, Hill allowed Oliszczak, who received disciplinary action and has since departed the university for other reasons, to follow up with the coach.
“(Oliszczak) mentioned in his email that (Winslow) was going to go through treatment. He was going to monitor him every two weeks, which apparently did not happen,” Hill said. “It’s a big mistake. It’s my big mistake. In hindsight, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have taken a look at that more deeply. I know if I had looked at it more deeply and I knew what was going on, I know what I would have done.”
The team of investigators also found that it does not appear Winslow physically abused student-athletes or engaged in racial discrimination. Nor did the investigators find that Winslow had sexual relations with student-athletes while at the University of Utah.
With regard to allegations of psychological abuse, the committee found that the Utah athletics department intervened promptly in response to information from athletes in 2009. Guidelines regarding appropriate coaching practices were established and Winslow was closely monitored. The abusive conduct appears to have ended at that time; however, the report says that intimidation and inconsistent discipline seem to have continued, undermining the success of the team and the health and well-being of some of the athletes.
Attempts to locate and contact Winslow for comment were unsuccessful.
Hill said that the responsibility for the problems surrounding Winslow and the swim team was ultimately his. “If even one student believes his experience is not optimal, then I have failed to achieve our No. 1 goal,” he said. “I would like to apologize to any of our former and current swimmers who feel that I have not done my job.
“As this report indicates, we could have done better. I could have done better. I am ultimately responsible for all 400 student-athletes and pledge to do a better job in monitoring our staff, our coaches and our programs.”
The investigative team outlined recommendations regarding transparency, accessible paths for student-athletes to report concerns, consistent coaching expectations, and appropriate monitoring of coaching staffs. The final point is an effort to provide clear guidance regarding which tactics are safe and effective motivation and which are abusive.
In order to fulfill his pledge to improve the university programs, Hill and University of Utah President David Pershing announced that measures will and are being taken to adhere to the committee’s recommendations. Those improvements are to be in place by Aug. 15.
“All our coaches, in their contracts now, they have a background check,” Hill said. “We do that, but we need to do it more extensively. It’s really important to investigate that carefully. I’m disappointed in a couple of things that have happened, and they’re going to be fixed. They are being fixed.”
Among other actions, student-athletes will now have two additional routes to confidentially report issues. One will be through the student affairs office and the other through a representative who reports directly to Pershing. Both routes are independent of the athletic department. Additionally, a member of the Student Athlete Wellness Team will report instances of abuse directly to Hill; the university will adopt standards for safe and effective coaching methods; and the university will make sure students and faculty have better information on substance abuse as well as how and where to report such instances.
They also said the new policies will be expanded to all athletic teams, not just the swimming and diving programs on which the investigation centered.
“We are going beyond swimming,” Hill said. “In every sport. The recommendation is in swimming but this has to be every single sport so that every single student-athlete goes in and understands (what to expect).”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.
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