I’m exploring why the board of directors of John Leonard’s American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) – in my view, a major bad guy in the sport’s national youth coach sex abuse scandal – is dotted with prominent college coaches. Embedded in the answer to that question are the interlocking commercial interests of officials at all levels of organized swimming, from the Olympic team all the way down to the learn-to-swim programs at your local YMCA.
I suspect not only that the answer is unpretty but also that, as in the Penn State story, it goes a long way toward explaining the entire ecosystem of cover-up and denial.
One-time sex-abuse whistleblower David Berkoff, a former swimming star at Harvard and the Olympics, is now a USA Swimming apologist. He scoffs demagogically at those seeking to clean the leadership house at the organization, which has dropped the ball on this issue for decades, and on whose board he himself is now serving his second stint.
“We are a family,” Berkoff asserts. This sounds very much like a defense of the discretion by which Joe Paterno and other responsible officials in State College, Pennsylvania, decided that not turning over information on Jerry Sandusky to police and child-protection authorities was the “humane” thing to do.
So I start with Harvard, but not only because of Berkoff’s own association with it. Harvard is, well, Harvard – bellwether of all things elite, proper, and codified in our society.
In addition, it turns out that Harvard’s men’s swimming coach, Tim Murphy, is one of those board members at ASCA.
Unfortunately, Murphy is not returning my messages. Trying another avenue yesterday, I sent the questions below to the Harvard Athletics communications office, and followed up by phone. But neither Kurt Svoboda, the assistant athletic director for communications, nor Andrew Chesebro, the staffer who fields media inquiries about the men’s swimming program, has gotten back to me, either.
When they do, I’ll let y’all know.
1. Coach Murphy is on the board of directors of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA). This raises questions about Harvard’s relationship with and positions with respect to the national youth coach sex abuse scandal. My first questions involve university policy on affiliations with groups such as ASCA – whether it be a coach with a sports trade association, or prominent faculty or staff generally with high-profile organizations outside Harvard’s jurisdiction. Please fill me in here.
2. Have Harvard and/or the Egan family, who endowed the Ulen-Brooks coaching position, addressed the sex abuse issue in the sport of swimming? If yes, what have you said, separately or collectively? If not, can you and the Egans please give me statements?
3. ASCA’s executive director, John Leonard, rejects the idea that it should publish a list of coaches who have been banned for sexual misconduct, to supplement the list USA Swimming began publishing after an investigative report by ABC’s 20/20 two years ago. Mr. Leonard’s grounds are that “We do not have an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form.” (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=5862.) Do Harvard University and Harvard Athletics agree with ASCA?