by Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc. has learned that Murray Stephens, founder and deposed CEO of Michael Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club — who still collects hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in rental fees from NBAC for his Meadowbrook Aquatic Center — supervises his own son Henry in one-on-one swim practices at the natatorium of the exclusive McDonogh School in suburban Owings Mills, Maryland.
Exactly why Murray Stephens is on the McDonogh pool deck with Henry Stephens, a student there, is not known. But immediate speculation on the reason is that the elder Stephens is not allowed to be seen publicly at his own pool, in the wake of allegations by a past NBAC swimmer that he had sexually molested her years ago. When the story came out last year in a report by Tim Joyce on Baltimore radio station WBAL, Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach, quietly took over leadership of NBAC and Stephens was separated from the club’s day-to-day operations.
Curiously, when the allegations against Stephens surfaced, he had only recently been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. At least one other Hall of Fame coach, Paul Bergen, also has been accused of sexual abuse. Former gold medalist Deena Deardurff Schmidt talked about having been molested by her youth coach on ABC’s 20/20 in 2010. Though she did not name Bergen. USA Swimming vice president David Berkoff did in an internal memorandum posted here.
(WBAL subsequently stopped using Joyce and censored all of his reporting for the station. Joyce is now a regular contributor to Concussion Inc.)
McDonogh has an independent and peculiar connection to the NBAC scandals. The school has not responded to a query emailed to headmaster Charles Britton, co-athletics directors Mickey Deegan and Matt McMullan, aquatics director Scott Ward, facilities director Steve Simmers, and communications director Nina Sinnott.
Because I do not have contact information for Murray Stephens, I also copied the general manager of Meadowbrook, John Cadigan, who is also Bowman’s chief assistant at NBAC, with the title of operations director.
Here’s the text of our unanswered query:
We have been told that Mr. Stephens is training his son Henry, a McDonogh student and a competitive swimmer, in one-on-one sessions at the McDonogh natatorium. First, I simply would like to confirm that fact.
I then would like to know if McDonogh is aware of our reports that Mr. Stephens resigned as the head of the swim club he founded, the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (which is still headquartered at his Meadowbrook facility), amidst allegations of sexual abuse by a former swimmer there. Our understanding is also that Mr. Stephens no longer appears on the coaching deck for NBAC.
Finally, I seek details on McDonogh’s arrangements with Mr. Stephens for his son’s coaching sessions. Does he serve in an advisory capacity with the school, or with the USA Swimming club domiciled there, the Eagles? Also: As general policy or practice, does McDonogh vet on its own the USA Swimming coaches who are based at your facility?
According to local sources, Stephens is a significant McDonogh benefactor and helped fundraising for the construction of the school’s natatorium.
The same sources tell us that McDonogh students with behavior issues are linked to 2011-12 harassment and bullying of an NBAC swimmer who was involved in a disputed incident with two teammates at a February 2012 practice at Meadowbrook. That matter remains under investigation by USA Swimming.
Though neither of the swimmers accused in that incident was a McDonogh student, two others were part of the clique of boys who taunted the victim on Facebook and stole his gear bag from the locker room on more than one occasion. According to on-the-record testimony of another former NBAC athlete, now a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, at least one of the McDonogh students in this group continued to harass the victim even after the swimmers accused in the February 2012 incident wrote “apologies” for the assault incident.
In a story not reported in the Baltimore media but widely known in the community, the two McDonogh students would be expelled after the school chose not to press criminal charges against them for a series of thefts of campus computers. The boys were also accused of conspiring to frame a third, innocent, student in the thefts. One of the expelled students still swims for NBAC. The other moved to San Diego with his father, a naval officer.
An NBAC source said the club’s rental bill at Murray Stephens’ Meadowbrook Aquatic Center is $57,000 a month.