Mark Schubert says firing unexpected

Updated: November 17, 2010, 4:22 PM ET
Associated Press

Fighting back tears, Mark Schubert said Wednesday he was totally caught off guard by his firing as head coach of the U.S. national swim team and is "ready to go back to work."

He still isn't saying why he was dismissed.

Schubert and his attorney, Michael Bernstein, held a news conference at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that cleared up one thing -- the coach was definitely given a pink slip by USA Swimming -- but left many questions unanswered.

It was never any secret that our goal as a national team was to try to win all the gold medals at the London Olympics. If the athletes and their coaches want me back, I'm ready to go back to work.

-- Mark Schubert

Most notably, why was Schubert fired?

"Regarding any of the specifics in terms of the reasons given, there's really nothing else for Mark and I to express," Bernstein said. "Feel free to ask USA Swimming."

The governing body has steadfastly maintained that Schubert's departure is a private personnel matter. In fact, USA Swimming has never said directly that he was fired.

In mid-September, Schubert was placed on a 60-day leave, with no reasons given for the surprising move. The Associated Press reported last week that Schubert would not return to his powerful post, and the organization finally confirmed Tuesday in a news release it was "parting ways" with Schubert.

"This is personnel issue and outside of [Tuesday's] correspondence, we have nothing further," said Jamie Olsen, a spokeswoman for USA Swimming.

Schubert said he had never received a negative job review until executive director Chuck Wielgus "expressed displeasure with me" in August at the biggest meet of the year, the Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif.

"At that same meeting, he said I could have my job through 2016 or 2020," Schubert said. "Other than that, there's been only praise. In fact, after the Pan Pacific Championship, Chuck Wielgus shook my hand several times, looked me in the eyes and said, 'Great job, coach.'"

Speculation has ranged from testy relations with sponsors and other swimming officials to Schubert's siding with a proposal that would have allowed swimmers to maintain more control over their marketing rights, an idea that was nixed by USA Swimming.

Bernstein ruled out another issue: the sexual abuse scandal that has led to several lawsuits accusing the organization of coddling coaches who had improper sexual relationships with underage swimmers.

"This has absolutely nothing to with the scandal that has rocked the swimming world," the attorney said.

Wearing a white, button-down shirt with "USA Swimming" emblazoned over the chest, Schubert said he left his "dream job" at Southern California to take the national post in 2006 and would like to continue the work he has done with one of America's most successful Olympic sports.

While it seems highly unlikely he could return to his job with USA Swimming, at least as long as Wielgus is the executive director, Schubert would not rule it out.

"It was never any secret that our goal as a national team was to try to win all the gold medals at the London Olympics," Schubert said. "If the athletes and their coaches want me back, I'm ready to go back to work."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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