Utah swimming parent activist Matt Fiascone has forwarded to university president David Pershing, National Collegiate Athletic Association president Mark Emmert, Concussion Inc., and others an open letter to athletic director Chris Hill from yet another of swim coach Greg Winslow’s abused athletes: Sarah Boylen, who now swims at Purdue University.
We are reproducing Boylen’s letter in full and then adding some commentary based on our conversations with a number of Utah swimmers, particularly women. In a phone conversation, Boylen said she preferred not to elaborate on her allegations against Winslow at this time — except to clarify that she is indeed the niece of former Utah basketball coach Jim Boylen and that their respective departures from the university were in no way related. (All sides of the Winslow debate seem to agree on this point.)
Dear Mr. Chris Hill (Athletic Director of Utah University)
My name is Sarah Boylen, and I am a former swimmer from the University of Utah. I experienced the worst two years of my life swimming for Utah. I spent my time at Utah being ridiculed, told I was nothing, and watching my teammates suffer along side of me.
The head Utah swimming and diving coach, Greg Winslow, broke me. After two years of abuse from him, it took me a while until I could hold my head up high again. I solely blamed Greg Winslow for my years of hell, but what now haunts me even more then the memories of him, is the fact you knew about it.
I realize that there are sick people in the world, and I can categorize Greg Winslow as one of them, but what doesn’t make sense to me is how you could sit there and let us all suffer? You had letters, you talked to parents, and you knew the character of Greg Winslow. Even before my class started at Utah, you had allegations against him. You set my teammates and I up for failure, and we were naïve enough to think you would eventually realize, and come to our rescue. We were all very wrong.
What I do not think many people understand, is the fragile situation athletes are in. When a person trains 10 years of their lives to compete in division 1, there is not much that is going to stop them from finishing their college careers. My teammates and I all knew Greg Winslow was a horrible coach, and we all knew he was abusive and ruining our careers. However, we spent our whole lives working so hard to swim division 1 that it seemed unfair for us to give up on our dreams because we were in a bad situation. We worked our whole lives for our scholarships, and many of us were too invested in the sport of swimming to just walk away.
What I am so angry about is the fact you put us in that situation. You made us choose between being abused or walking away from thousands of dollars. For some of my former teammates, they couldn’t leave. Some of them simply could not afford school anywhere else. You made me choose, and I had to leave behind a scholarship at Utah. I went to go swim at Purdue University for free, to go chase a dream that already seemed dead.
When I went to the Utah compliance to leave, they were not surprised at all. They said in order to get Greg to release me, I needed to “tip toe out of here”. They said if I told Greg the real reason I wanted to leave, then he would bad mouth me to other programs, or worse not release me at all. She suggested I thank Greg for everything (what a joke) and blame my exiting on something other then the swim program. So I left Utah without saying a word to anyone other than a sports psychologist. I already had lost 2 years of my college career; I was not about to let another 2 years go because I angered Greg Winslow one last time. So I sucked it up, and thanked the man I hated. I left Utah, and never looked back.
So my question is: Why didn’t you care about us? Why did you leave me with an abusive coach? I spent 10 years of my life preparing to swim for college, and I wasted 2 years of it swimming at Utah. Evidently, you were too busy counting your generous salary to care about the wellbeing of the athletes in the swimming program. You left me, and my teammates defenseless, something I will never forgive you for. I went from a confident young lady, to a broken version of myself. All of that could have been avoided if you would have cared.
Incase you believe that I’m writing this because I’m a “disgruntled bitter swimmer” (like the University likes to refer to us as), then you are wrong. I was strong enough to pick myself up, transfer from Utah, and compete for Purdue University. At Purdue, I swam at Big Tens for two years, and chased my dream. I got my Olympic Trial cut last summer, and competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials. I then went on to finish out my last year of college eligibility, for a fantastic team, representing a school I’m proud to be a part of. I am not a victim of yours, but I am always going to wonder what my career would have been like if I would have never swam at Utah.
In my eyes, you are a guilty man. Your negligence needs to be reprimanded, and my former teammates and I deserve an apology. Thanks to your apathy, I walked away from my scholarship, spent two years of precious eligibility swimming for Greg Winslow, and now I have to pay for another semester of school since all of my credits did not transfer. Your negligence has set me back, and I’m sure the same has happened for many of my former teammates.
Thanks for nothing,
As I said, Boylen did not want to go into further details at this time.
Her information, however, connects with redundant accounts we have received of the sick program Greg Winslow ran, and of the extreme psychological duress and demoralization his swimmers endured. In the pending Arizona criminal matter, Winslow faces actual felony charges for sexual molestation of a minor. At Utah, there is an accretion of evidence of abuse of power and pathological practices, which in isolation do not break the law, but in combination show how this coach was allowed to run amok by Hill’s athletic department without regard to the safety of the athletes.
For example: Swimmers tell us Winslow favored the highly unorthodox practice of forcing the women to do abdominal exercises on the pool deck, in their swim suits, and in the presence of the full coaching staff and the male swimmers. Winslow was known to stand over females as they performed these exercises, in the course of which private parts would be exposed.
We could publish a full volume cataloging Winslow’s gross, inappropriate, and unprofessional conversations with his female swimmers. One remembered that he talked to her about having hooked up again with an old girlfriend, and without his wife’s knowledge, during his Thanksgiving break in Denver. (Concussion Inc. already has reported that a member of Winslow’s coaching staff, who coached the divers, left the university following exposure of his extramarital affair with her; she now coaches at a high school in Colorado.)
Michael Kinsley once wrote, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal. The scandal is what’s legal.” What Winslow is alleged to have done in Maricopa County, Arizona, is illegal. What he did to scores of swimmers in six years at the University of Utah is scandalous enough to take away the breath of any observer with a sense of decency. People higher up the chain, in addition to Winslow himself, need to pay for it.