Concussion Inc. here launches a new series of articles with background on the sexual abuse charges in Arizona against suspended University of Utah swimming coach Greg Winslow.
The authors believe that this information helps illuminate the culture of USA Swimming, which is reeling from decades of accusations of molestations of underage athletes, some at the hands of some of the sport’s most celebrated coaches. Both the broad outline and many specific details of the Winslow story are found time and again in our investigations of these scandals.
by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
Greg Winslow’s two children are victims of his public downfall. So, perhaps, is his wife. The following was written in the hope that understanding a tragic situation is better assisted by telling stories than by suppressing them. We also believe that the public interest in cleaning up swimming and all of American open amateur sports takes precedence over the discomfort caused by these reports. That said, we are mindful of collateral damage and we will strive to minimize it.
In her teens, Winslow’s wife Jessica swam for the Falfins club at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her head coach there was Greg Winslow.
In the summer of 2000, Winslow told friends he was secretly dating Jessica, when she was around 17 and he, 25. According to several sources, they began dating formally the day she graduated high school. They were married in 2002.
In the swimming world, there is a widespread practice, called “grooming,” which describes borderline relationships between coaches and their athletes. In grooming, a coach fostering a swimmer-turned-sex-partner, or even a potential serious girlfriend or wife, might or might not violate statutory rape laws by having sex with or inappropriately touching an underage female. Regardless, his superior experience and authority are leveraged as aphrodisiacs — especially when joined to favored attention and other manipulative tactics. Often immature interactions on pool decks can be easily confused or contorted into boy-girl — or adult man-young adult woman — rituals and repartee, which the world at large recognizes under the category of “flirting.”
The Winslows are arguably a classic example of a marriage preceded by grooming. Other examples abound in swimming, even in, especially in, the upper echelons. Pat Hogan, the managing director of club development at USA Swimming, is married to a woman he coached. [CORRECTION at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time 3/3/12: Hogan’s first wife was a swimmer of his. They divorced and he remarried.]
Greg Winslow’s boss at Arizona State University and Sun Devil Aquatics was Mike Chasson; his wife, Jill Johnson Chasson, swam for him when he was an assistant coach at Stanford University. (Jill Chasson also chairs USA Swimming’s National Board of Review, and she says she would recuse herself in any forthcoming investigation of Winslow over the Arizona incident.)
Anti-sex abuse activists believe grooming and outright sexual molestation are intertwined phenomena. Aside from the abuse argument, many in and out of swimming believe that coach-athlete relationships at any age are inappropriate and unprofessional, and warp sports’ goal of competitive meritocracy. But measures to thwart grooming meet resistance. Last year a proposal to ban coach-athlete relationships failed in a floor vote at the post-Olympics Aquatic Sports Convention, after having been favorably reported out by the USA Swimming rules committee.
The man Jessica Winslow married had been bred for athletic elitism; in his own career, he was an All-American and led a conference championship team at the University of North Dakota.
Greg Winslow also came from a military background, and the discipline from that enriched his athletic pursuits. His father, a Marine pilot, served in Vietnam. His younger brother is a Marine. His sister is married to a Marine.
Dad wanted Greg to become a Marine too, and the expectations might have weighed heavily on him. At North Dakota, Greg switched majors from aviation to English.
Friends described him as capable of being gregarious, emotional in all ways, and challenged by impulse control and alcohol.
NEXT: Winslow’s troubled tenure at the University of Utah.
P.S. An earlier version of this post misidentified Winslow’s wife as a professional development specialist at Utah State University and, earlier, a facilitator for the Child and Family Support Center of Cache Valley in Logan, Utah. We have been informed that that is a different Jessica Winslow. Concussion Inc. regrets the error.