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

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 6:58 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) 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.

Greg Winslow, former University of Utah Swim team. September 1, 2009 in Salt Lake City. (Steve C. Wilson) Greg Winslow, former University of Utah Swim team. September 1, 2009 in Salt Lake City. (Steve C. Wilson)

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.

Chris Hill, athletic director for the University of Utah, answers questions as the U. releases findings from their swim team coach investigation in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Chris Hill, athletic director for the University of Utah, answers questions as the U. releases findings from their swim team coach investigation in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

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.”

David Pershing, president of 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) David Pershing, president of 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)

“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.

But the report did say Hill failed to investigate the alcohol problem. It said Winslow had appeared drunk on numerous occasions and concluded Oliszcak did little to deal with Winslow’s issues, or to pass along the information. The report also questioned Oliszczak’s reliability.

Clark Ivory, chair of the board of trustees 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) Clark Ivory, chair of the board of trustees 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)

Though Oliszczak told investigators he advised Hill to fire Winslow in 2011, they didn’t believe him, saying, “We do not believe that Oliszczak’s statements … are reliable.”

In April 2012, the associate A.D. was issued a “Notice of Written Warning” in which he was demoted for not filling or following up on assignments. It also accused him of making untrue statements, such as claiming he had registered the women’s basketball team for the WNIT, when he had not.

Oliszczak was told to resign or be fired in October 2012. He cited “family medical issues,” to the investigators, then admitted he had “management issues with Chris Hill.”

So the Utah swim team scandal came down to this: Hill knew Winslow was a problem, but left it to Oliszczak to handle. It was the wrong choice.

“Once I found out details (of the altercation) I should have either fired (Winslow) or suspended him and demanded alcohol treatment,” Hill said on Tuesday.

David Pershing, at center, president of the University of Utah, answers questions as the U. releases findings from their swim team coach investigation in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. At left is Clark Ivory, chair of the board of trustees for the U. At right is Chris Hill, athletic director for the U. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) David Pershing, at center, president of the University of Utah, answers questions as the U. releases findings from their swim team coach investigation in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. At left is Clark Ivory, chair of the board of trustees for the U. At right is Chris Hill, athletic director for the U. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Asked if he should have resigned, Hill said, “No. I thought about i t… but if I thought I was in the way of having things be successful, I wouldn’t do (the job).”

Hill’s was a sin of omission, once removed. He assumed the problem was being fixed. Now he’s been through a draining, embarrassing investigation. He’s had to replace a swim coach and an associate A.D.

Come to think of it, I never should have let the maintenance schedule lapse on a car of mine. I changed the oil, but that was about it. Otherwise, I wasn’t paying attention and ended up buying a new car.

In that sense, I think we both let some things go. And we’ve both paid enough.

David Pershing, president of 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) David Pershing, president of 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)

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: therockmonster; Facebook: therockmonster

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