The Sick and Sophomoric World of Rick Curl and His Underling Swim Coach, Noah Rucker

Washington Post: Rick Curl ‘Accepts’ Provisional USA Swimming Suspension
August 1, 2012
Sex Happens. But Why Is USA Swimming By Far the Worst National Sports Governing Body in Terms of Protecting Children?
August 3, 2012

As reported last night, Rick Curl has a “provisional suspension” in his statutory rapes 30 years ago of then-young teenager Kelley Davies – which amounts to a procedurally specious continuance by USA Swimming until a September 19 hearing of its ultra-secret National Board of Review.

By that time, no doubt, the hope is that the public will have forgotten all about Curl and his brethren sex abusers; all the focus will be on the new TV commercials starring Missy Franklin and other Olympic champions.

In an aside to its Curl story, The Washington Post noted that USA Swimming said Noah Rucker, a 39-year-old coach at the Curl-Burke club — one of the nation’s largest, with nearly 1,000 swimmers — has indeed been suspended himself following his June arrest on charges of illicit sexual relations with a swimmer he coached at a Virginia high school ten years ago. The Post did not say the term of the suspension. Rucker’s name is not on USA Swimming’s current online list of banned coaches, which was last revised on June 4.

I’d ask USA Swimming for clarification, except that I’d sooner hear back from Vladimir Putin on a query about the color of his tie today. At the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha (where Curl was cheerfully credentialed despite full knowledge by USA Swimming investigators of his $150,000 in hush money to the Davies family), the organization’s chief flack threatened to throw me out of the CenturyLink Center for having the temerity to ask about the status of Rucker’s “emergency hearing.”

Every case has its own fact set, of course, but you could see the Rucker outcome from a mile (or in my case 3,000 miles) away.

The day he was arrested, a woman who identified herself as his fiancée issued this statement on his behalf:

“Noah Rucker denies all charges against him and looks forward to clearing his name at trial if not before that time. [The alleged victim] told several people at the time of the initial investigation that she and Mr. Rucker had not been sexually intimate. Since she claims to be physically incapable of lying, that must be true. We also find it hard to believe that [the alleged victim] voluntarily would have dated Mr. Rucker when she was 21 years of age if he actually had molested her when she was fifteen.”

The gratuitous sarcasm (“she claims to be physically incapable of lying”), the use of another female-relationship prop, the cock-of-the-walk addition of the informaton that his conquests of the accuser succeeded her attainment of majority age … all add up to what we might call the “ladies’ man defense.”

Read the swimming site discussion boards with comments from parents who say they observed Rucker on the deck at Curl-Burke practices and meets, and you will see more of the same. Like all too many swimming coaches – a minority to be sure, but an unconscionably high number – Rucker was bred by his boss, Curl, and other senior coaches to sexualize his authority role with adolescents. He was never trained or supervised in the behavior of 12- and 13-year-old girls. For him, it was all one big continuum to adult relationships (“voluntarily dated Mr. Rucker when she was 21”).

This is sophomoric. This is sick. And it must be reversed dramatically, not just with mumbling about “better education on boundaries.” The state of affairs at USA Swimming, the very worst in this area among all our Olympic Committee-sanctioned national governing bodies, calls for a housecleaning.


Irv Muchnick

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick