Last week, just before heading to a nice weekend on Lake George, I got a facebook message via the Chris DeSantis Coaching facebook page. It was from Mark Schubert.
So much has happened since I published the accounts of five former swimmers at Germantown Academy last week. As many have pointed out, Shoulberg and and Schubert were chummy in their day.
I had a snarky joke in the previous paragraph that has since been deleted. The reader also challenged me to solicit experiences with Shoulberg that were positive. There are in fact many people who speak glowingly of the man, including many of the top swimming coaches in the country.
I chose not to include them because these experiences are well known and well documented elsewhere. You are likely to have only heard positive things about Dick Shoulberg in your life. He has been lionized and put in multiple Halls of Fame.
These perspectives are often included when discussing abuse allegations against a prominent figure. Their main purpose, from my perspective, is to discredit accusers. I’m not interested in that. When somebody gets accused of robbing a house we don’t need to hear from all the other people who interacted with the alleged robber who claim he was a nice guy who never robbed them.
So, if you want to read about how much everyone thinks Dick Shoulberg is amazing, swimming go to swimmingcoach.org and search some ASCA talks for his name. You will never get to the end of the praise.
There is a lot of new information in both cases. So I’ll lay it out here as well as discussing at the end why I feel compelled to blog about this stuff despite my own position as a coach.
Shoulberg possibly on the outs at GA, finally
I’ve heard from multiple sources that there is a possibility that the blog post from last week will lead to Germantown Academy finally, officially, cutting ties with Shoulberg. If you recall, the initial complaint that is the subject of a lawsuit probably led to Shoulberg’s “retirement” a few years ago.
Germantown wanted to have their cake and eat it to. They wanted to appear as if they were meting out some consequences for Shoulberg while giving the appearance of a friendly parting to his rabid constituency. It didn’t really work, as devotees of Shoulberg were furious and victims were left without closure.
Since then, Shoulberg remains in the GA Athletic Hall of Fame. And he is still welcome back on campus as a conquering hero. Word is, there is a meeting this week that may determine whether those two important distinctions will continue, or whether Shoulberg will be out of the Hall of Fame and no longer welcome on campus.
USA Swimming receives report
I submitted my blog as a report to USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Manager Elizabeth Hahn. You can read her reply below:
“Thank you for reaching out and sending me your article.
I wanted to get back with you to let you know that I have taken your report and made a report to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Based on all of the information, this was the next to take.
I’d also really like to offer SwimAssist to the athletes that you mentioned in your article and any of those that did not want to be named or mentioned. SwimAssist is available as a resource to financially assist with therapy for any person who suffered abuse by a USA Swimming member during the time that they were involved in USA Swimming, . Please share this information with those that you have talked with and my contact information if you are comfortable with that. SwimAssist is available now or anytime in the future.
Thank you again, Chris!”
I plan to follow up with Hahn in regards to why the entire report was forwarded to the US Center for Safe Sport. I was under the impression that USA Swimming’s Safe Sport division still handled non-sexual abuse complaints, and most of what is included in the post I made was non-sexual. I will keep you informed as to the response I get.
On the heels of the post, the Orange County Register’s Scott Reid, the top source for Mark Schubert related news, published a report that details more clearly Schubert’s actions to put a sexual abuser in a position of power within the organization.
The article tries to put a lot of “scoops” into one post, and therefore is kind of hard to follow. I’ve read it several times, and here are the most important details:
Dara Torres has given a deposition in the lawsuit that Kukors is bringing against USA Swimming, Schubert, Hutchison and Aquatic Management Group. In that deposition she asserts that she saw Hutchison leaving Kukors hotel room late at night at the 2009 Rome World Championship. Torres told both USA Swimming and Schubert about what she saw.
Despite that knowledge, Schubert went on to install Hutchison as the head of the post graduate training center at FAST (Fullerton), and helped convince Dagny Knutson to forego her amateur status and join the group.
Torres account is disputed by that of disgraced former Safe Sport head Susan Woessner, who in emails dated around the time of her “investigation” into the incident says that Torres stated not actually seeing Hutchison leave the hotel room and instead spoke to Hutchison about it. Woessner had to resign after admitting to “kissing” Hutchison sometime prior to the “investigation”
The best working theory (what follows is all conjecture from me) for Schubert’s actions are as follows. He knew that Hutchison was a rising coach and would attract a talented group of swimmers to FAST. He knew that Hutchison was compromised due to his grooming and abuse of Kukors. He was also on the outs with USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus.
So he installed Hutchison at FAST, hoping he would last long enough to do some solid recruiting but then be taken down. Schubert hoped to replace him, and despite some confusion about where the money was coming from, there would be little Wielgus could do to interfere since the post graduate center coaches were payed by the USOC.
Oh and by the way, Schubert’s lawyer friend is finally, officially, out of options to try and reverse the blame he got for his deception of Dagny Knutson, and is facing possible disbarment.
Why am I doing this?
Readers have often asked, “why are you doing this?” and not often in a kind way. I am aware of some discussion that I am somehow conspiring to take down "big names” in order to advance my own career.
The fact is, criticizing people like Mark Schubert and Dick Shoulberg has made it exponentially harder for me to continue coaching swimming. There are literally hundreds of coaches who have banked career advancement with precisely the opposite strategy. So if I was truly a craven opportunist, I would be licking the boots of these two men and not making these posts.
I am in the awkward position of doing “journalism” in something that i am participating in. I cringe at that word, mainly because I know what I do doesn’t meet any standard of true journalism. This is a blog. I have a strong bias that I do not apologize for. I am mostly editorializing, and not reporting “news” and I rely on true journalists to report news that informs what I do.
However, I think that there is critically little discussion of some really important news within our sport. The major news “outlets” for swimming do woeful coverage of these issues. USA Swimming still treats abusive coaches as much more of a public relations problem than a priority problem for them to solve.
So I’m often uncomfortable doing this, however much some people may think I “like” it. I would glady hand over the reins to someone else who was not a coach if they were willing to do it. Unfortunately, we need many more of such people to reach a critical mass to change things. Until then, I can’t just ignore it, I’m in too deep.
As a reminder, I’m going to continue on this beat for free. If you want to continue enjoying it for free, go ahead. There are no plans to change that. However, if you can make a contribution you will make it far easier for me to continue to do this work.
Where should we begin? Earlier this month, Dagny Knutson got her $617,800 judgment against her former attorney, Richard Foster, reinstated. Schubert managed to insert himself into this conflict in two crucial, despicable ways.
The longest one, which features some quotes from Schubert himself, begins with the title "Mark Schubert is a legend..." before asking the question that is the core of why Schubert is no legend. He doesn't belong in any of the multiple hall of fames he currently resides.
I'll be honest: I'm mad. I don't know where to start.
In the days since Ariana Kukors publicly revealed not only the brutal manipulation and abuse that Sean Hutchison inflicted on her, but the insidious grooming process he used to achieve it, the other characters in this story have been far too silent.
It's time to hold some feet to the fire. This blog is directed specifically at the media covering this story.
It is not an attack. It is a request. Hold their feet to the fire.
Who are they? Like I said, it's hard to know where to start. Here are two suggestions:
Schubert, who played a huge role in enabling Sean among many, many other things, is out in the media trying to cast himself as some sort of whistleblower that was ignored back in 2010.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Schubert took his knowledge of Sean and used it as leverage to his own gain. He gladly accepted $625,000 to keep his mouth shut and went his way.
Oh, and he hired the man, Bill Jewell, who oversaw Hutchison day to day at FAST, Jewell was another enabler who fashioned himself as a whistleblower. He was quoted in the original Washington Post article in 2010 saying that he had looked into the "rumors" and addressed them with Sean.
Jewell would go on to be banned for three years from coaching by USA Swimming after a real whistleblower, Dia Rianda, actually held some feet to the fire.
As Craig Lord aptly put in a facebook comment underneath Schubert's latest distortion, there is some basic journalism that anyone that talks to Schubert should engage in. Spend 5 minutes googling Mark Schubert and Sean Hutchison and catch up on some of the above. Ask some follow up questions.
Mark Schubert is not a hero in this story. He is one of the villains.
USA Swimming cannot be allowed to put out statements like the one they did for Kukors without strong pushback.
Here's the worst part of that statement:
"During the USA Swimming investigation, both Ariana and Hutchison, as well as Ariana’s sister, Emily, unequivocally denied the existence of a romantic or sexual relationship"
USA Swimming loves to be cagey with revealing details about their "investigations", but here they are changing the rules and burning Kukors to defend themselves.
Kukors own story provides so many questions USA Swimming needs to answer. Why did their investigation consist of one brief phone call to Kukors? Why were they in such a rush to consider this "case closed" and move on?
Why did they have to pay Mark Schubert $625,000 dollars for his silence if nothing happened?
Most importantly, where do they get off throwing a sexual abuse victim under the bus? How do they justify that their organization is somehow more important than the welfare of a human being?
So again, my request goes out. Craig Lord, Swimswam, Deadspin, Scott Reid at the OC Register and anyone else that has shown a modicum of interest in this story. Hold their feet to the fire, keep asking questions, and don't let up until we get the answers we deserve.
This past weekend, Mark Schubert got inducted into another hall of fame. The International Swim Coaches Association (ISCA). ISCA is ostensibly an organization that exists to provide an alternative to the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA). I've already made my feelings about ASCA known. Unfortunately, ISCA seems headed down a similar path.
Mark Schubert is a great test case for where we are culturally as coaches. The argument that he belongs in the hall of fame is based on results of swimmers that he has coached. Three NCAA titles, multiple world record breaking swims, a lot of Olympic medalists. That argument is easy, if that were the only criteria.
And maybe it is, because when you get to the rest of Mark Schubert's record, things get pretty bad. Schubert manipulated Dagny Knutson out of a college scholarship and effectively ended the career of one of the biggest phenoms of her era through his own avarice.
After Knutson followed Schubert's false promises to Fullerton, CA, Schubert leaked rumors of the coach of that team, Sean Hutchison, having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a swimmer. He then hired a Private Investigator with Bill Jewell, who would later be sanctioned by USA Swimming for violating their code of conduct, to follow Hutchison.
His actions led to the complete dismantling of the "Center of Excellence" in Fullerton, leaving swimmers to pick up the pieces. It wasn't the first time Schubert had wielded rumors of sexual abuse to his own benefit. When Rick Curl finally got justice, Schubert tried to represent himself as someone who did the right thing, if somehow telling Chuck Wielgus was all he could do.
Remember that Schubert was not some anonymous member of the rumor mill in the Curl case- he had been informed first hand by Curl's victim, Kelley Davies Currin.
Over in the sport swimming loves to look down its nose at, football, former Baylor coach Art Briles is so toxic that no one dare touch him. In swimming, Mark Schubert gets a hero's welcome at his old club, Mission Viejo. And an organization like ISCA, with the knowledge of all the above, deems him fit for the hall of fame.
I've heard a lot of people argue that character shouldn't be considered for a Hall of Fame. There are plenty of baseball players in Cooperstown that were terrible people (Ty Cobb comes to mind). But I think a coaching hall of fame is definitely different. Coaches should be held to a higher standard. We should be examples and mentors and principled first, then we can consider results.
Don't we have it all backwards?