A University of Maryland spokesman acknowledged Friday that the university had received a letter in the late 1980s from then-swimming and diving coach Rick Curl admitting that he had sex with an underage girl. The university immediately demanded his resignation and two weeks later notified the state attorney general’s office, the spokesman said.
But the assistant attorney general who was supposed to have been notified said Friday that he had no recollection of being contacted.
The letter surfaced Thursday when Curl was sentenced in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville to seven years in prison for sexually abusing Kelley Currin, a member of his local swim club. He admitted to having had sexual contact with her from the time she was 13 until she left for college.
At the sentencing, Currin testified that the coach had groomed her for sexual abuse, with kisses by the water fountain and a long slow dance at his wedding, while she dreamed of Olympic gold medals under his guidance. The sexual contact progressed to intercourse that continued for five years, so many times that she lost count, she said.
The Montgomery state’s attorney’s office obtained the letter through a subpoena issued in the fall to the university for records related to Curl.
Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery prosecutor’s office, said the criminal investigation is closed but can be reopened if new information is uncovered. “If there were new reports or other victims that came forward, then we certainly would do anything in our ethical or legal powers to look into it,” he said Friday.
Currently, Currin is the only known victim.
Curl’s defense attorney, Thomas Kelly Jr., mentioned the letter in court Thursday to argue that the coach had long ago admitted his mistake and that plenty of officials had knowledge of his confession.
Penned in slanted cursive, Curl wrote the letter after Currin’s parents discovered the teenage diary she had kept and confronted him. He admitted in the letter that he had had sexual intercourse with Currin when she was 15 and a member of the Curl-Burke Swim Club and that he knew she was a minor.
He signed the letter on July 26, 1986, along with Currin and her parents.
After Curl was hired in August 1987 as head coach of Maryland’s swimming and diving teams, Currin’s parents took his confession to then-athletic director Lew Perkins, according to Currin’s court testimony and interviews with her parents.
Her parents said they were advised to seek private counsel during a meeting at the university. Currin’s mother, Pam Davies, was unable to recall the name of the official with whom they spoke. “We just went there, and we didn’t know what to do,” she said. “We wanted to do something that would hurt [Curl] in some way. We ended up there.”
The parents eventually signed a confidentiality deal with Curl for $150,000. Currin kept her silence until last year, when she decided to come forward with allegations against Curl.
Repeated attempts to reach Perkins were unsuccessful.
University spokesman Brian Ullmann issued a statement Friday but said some details of the case are difficult to pin down after 25 years.
“Based on an internal review, we believe the University of Maryland handled this matter responsibly 25 years ago. Upon learning of the improper relationship, University officials demanded the resignation of Mr. Curl and notified and briefed the Attorney General’s office. The safety and well being of our campus community remains a University priority.”
Curl’s resignation letter is dated Aug. 24, 1988. The attorney general’s office was alerted and briefed Sept. 7, 1988, Ullmann added.
Ullmann said he believed that university officials contacted Jim Mingle, who was then an assistant attorney general for Maryland who handled matters for the University of Maryland system.
Mingle had a high-profile role negotiating a settlement in 1986 with departing Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell, who left shortly after the cocaine-overdose death of star basketball player Len Bias.
“I have absolutely no recollection of this coach or any consultation about him,” Mingle said in an e-mail Friday. “I am confident I would remember such an issue regarding a coach’s sexual abuse.”
A spokesman for the Maryland attorney general’s office said Friday afternoon that the office was closed and that he was unable to comment on the matter.
After Curl left the University of Maryland, he went on to bolster his private swim club, which would later churn out Olympic gold medal winners and world record breakers, along with thousands of young swimmers who wanted a shot in elite swimming.