by Tim Joyce and Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc. has learned that University of Utah head swimming coach Greg Winslow is named as USA Swimming’s latest accused abuser of underage female swimmers, in an 80-plus-page police report filed Monday in Mesa, Arizona, by the Arizona State University (ASU) campus police.
The report, whose contents were summarized for these reporters by Arizona sources, will be released publicly after authorities complete the task of redacting the alleged victim’s name and other identifying elements. Our sources say the report recommends that Winslow be charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. The charging decision is in the hands of the sex crimes unit of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Over a period of at least two years, starting when the victim was 15, Winslow is accused of molesting a swimmer he coached at the Sun Devils Aquatics club, headquartered at ASU’s Mona Plummer Aquatic Complex. According to the police report, most of the abuse took place in the coach’s locked office. According to other sources, it is also possible that there was at least one other incident of abuse that occurred out-of-state.
Of course, the allegation of sex crimes on a university campus is especially significant and sensitive in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State.
Reached last night in Federal Way, Washington, where he is coaching Utah at the Pac-12 Swimming Championships, Winslow issued this statement: “These are extremely serious allegations, and if I am accused, I will certainly respond.”
Liz Abel, Utah’s senior associate athletics director, said, “This is the first we have heard of this. In the morning, we will begin an investigation to learn more and will act appropriately based on our findings.”
The Winslow case is certain to be one of the most explosive yet in the unraveling tapestry of abuse and cover-up throughout USA Swimming — the national sport governing body as sanctioned by the Colorado-based U.S. Olympic Committee under the Amateur Sports Act. The reasons for this include more than just the template: a familiar pattern of a charismatic, manipulative, exploitive coach who leveraged the age difference between himself and his swimmers, as well as his power and authority, to groom young girls for “consensual” sexual relations in their early adulthood — if not for outright statutory rape before the victims were of majority age.
The other compelling factor in the Winslow abuse narrative is his long and deep connection to swimming royalty. He is a genuine Colorado sports blueblood, having coached previously for the Falfins Swim Club at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. There his athletes included the children of Dennis Pursley, then the national Olympic team director. One of them, Lisa Pursley, followed Winslow as a coach in Arizona and on his staff at Utah; now married with the name Lisa Ebeling, she works under her father at the University of Alabama. Last year Dennis Pursley coached the host British Olympic swim team at the London Games.
Meanwhile, the owner of Sun Devils Aquatics, where Winslow is alleged to have committed sexual abuse, is Mike Chasson, who was also head swim coach at ASU until 2009. And Chasson is married to Phoenix lawyer Jill Johnson Chasson — whom he had coached as an assistant at Stanford University.
Jill Chasson heads USA Swimming’s National Board of Review, which has jurisdiction over allegations of conduct code violations by coaches. If, as usually happens, USA Swimming proceeds to conduct an administrative hearing based on the Arizona criminal charges against Winslow, an immediate question will be whether Chasson recuses herself.
In what is perhaps a crowning irony, Jill Chasson also swam under Murray Stephens at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. As this site has reported exclusively, Stephens was removed from the coaching deck at NBAC in late 2011 because of allegations of sexual abuse.
In the Arizona case against Winslow, the victim’s father told us that he learned the details this past summer. The victim, now 22, had been named the top high school swimmer in the state two years running. She swam under Winslow for one year at Utah, a second-tier college program, before transferring to an elite program. She was a member of an NCAA championship medley relay team.
The father stated that the abuse suffered by his daughter led to a continually more troubled personal life, and a spiral of self-destructive behavior. A descent into substance abuse culminated with a suicide attempt.
“This was a completely shocking and devastating revelation,” the father said. “We trusted this coach with our daughter, and he violated her and robbed her of her childhood, and wreaked havoc on her very being. We want her story heard, and justice served, so that this pedophile coach is held accountable. And USA Swimming has to make changes to ensure that this does not happen again, and these bright and promising kids are protected.”
In addition to the University of Utah, Sun Devils Aquatics, and the Falfins and associated Air Force Academy positions, Winslow coached at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and the Valley Swim team in Colorado. He is a 1998 alumnus of the University of North Dakota.
His profile page on the Utah website lists his swimmers there as having achieved 38 school records, five conference records, and nine event titles. Overall, he has coached 21 swimmers who qualified for the Olympic Trials. His athletes have broken 22 ASU records. Winslow was also named Colorado Coach of the Year in 2001.
As coverage of this developing story continues, another key question will be whether any of the other colleges and clubs where Winslow coached have been contacted by ASU since the university became aware of the investigation several months ago.