Mark Schubert to speak about ouster
The nasty split between USA Swimming and former national team coach Mark Schubert is going public.
Schubert called a news conference Wednesday morning at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to discuss his ouster, which was reported last week by The Associated Press and finally confirmed Tuesday by USA Swimming.
"We just want to set the record straight," Schubert told the AP when reached in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night.
There's been no official explanation for his split with USA Swimming, which began two months ago when he was placed on a 60-day leave. Speculation has ranged from testy relations with sponsors and other swimming officials to Schubert's support for a nixed arrangement that would have been more favorable financially to athletes on the national team.
USA Swimming has steadfastly refused to discuss the reason Schubert was placed on leave, and a statement confirming he wouldn't be back shed no new light on the reasons for his departure after 4½ years in the job as head coach and general manager of the national team.
"I continue to have the highest admiration and respect for Mark Schubert and for his accomplishments and contributions to the sport," said Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming. "I am saddened by this parting of ways as I was the one who sought out and recruited Mark for the job at USA Swimming. I know Mark still has much to give to the sport he loves and wish him the best in his future endeavors."
USA Swimming is apparently planning to change its leadership structure, with no mention of hiring someone else to fill the powerful post that Schubert held.
Instead, the organization plans to hire a national team director, who will be "charged with providing vision and leadership for America's top coaches and elite athletes with focus on their performance at the Olympic Games and other international competitions."
Applications will be taken through the end of the year and the position will be filled by next spring. Wielgus will have the final say on who gets the job, in consultation with the national team's volunteer leadership and staff.
Former USA Swimming president Jim Wood has served as interim national team leader since Schubert went on leave but will not be considered for the permanent job.
Chuck Malkus, a public relations specialist who arranged the news conference for Schubert, said the former coach has been the victim of "misinformation and innuendo" from the leadership at USA Swimming.
"There has been information relayed to the board members that is incorrect," Malkus said. "We're talking about a coach who has dedicated his life to athletes and others coaches and made a difference in the world of swimming."
Schubert was a six-time Olympic coach, working with such swimmers as Janet Evans and Dara Torres. He took over the newly created role of national coach after the Athens Games and led the team that turned in another stellar showing in Beijing, highlighted by Michael Phelps' record eight gold medals.
Holding the news conference at the International Swimming Hall of Fame is clearly intended to make a symbolic statement about Schubert's contributions to one of America's most successful Olympic sports. He was inducted into the hall in 1997.
"It's unfortunate the way this has been handled so far," Malkus said. "This has not been a positive chapter as far as swimming the last couple of months."
Actually, it's been a rocky year for swimming on several fronts.
A sexual abuse scandal has resulted in several lawsuits, accusing USA Swimming of condoning an atmosphere that allowed coaches to carry on improper relationships with underage athletes. The organization has approved new guidelines to deal with the issue, with critics claiming they don't go far enough.
Last month, open-water star Fran Crippen died during a meet in Dubai. His family is awaiting the results of an autopsy, and separate investigations are being conducted by USA Swimming and the international governing body, FINA.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press