U.S. Olympic swim coach Sean Hutchison resigns

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 30, 2010; 12:15 AM

A 2008 U.S. Olympic coach who leads the most acclaimed group of female swimming stars in the nation has decided to resign his coaching position in Fullerton, Calif.

Sean Hutchison, who grew up in Columbia, and attended Oakton and Centennial high schools, said Wednesday he had long wanted to create an independent post-graduate training team and would depart as the elite coach at Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team (FAST) once the specifics of a new arrangement were worked out.

Hutchison acknowledged that his decision to leave came shortly after a club official confronted him about rumors that he was having a relationship with one of his female swimmers, but he said the rumors were untrue and did not compel his departure.

The official, Bill Jewell, FAST's chief operating officer and head coach, said he met with Hutchison to discuss the rumors, but did not urge Hutchison to resign.

"He is going his own way," Jewell said. "I'm just not comfortable with some of the rumors, and I addressed them with him. Basically, the rest is pretty much private and personal and I don't want to get into it."

Jewell also said: "I didn't ask him to leave. I asked him to solve this problem. . . . I'm being proactive. . . . Sean has always been an entrepreneurial guy; I suspect this is really what this is about. "

Hutchison, who served as an assistant coach at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and head U.S. women's coach at the 2009 swimming world championships in Rome, said he did not know whether his biggest stars - including world-record holder Ariana Kukors and multiple Olympic medalists Margaret Hoelzer and Katie Hoff - would remain at FAST or join him.

Kukors and Hoff did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"My goal all along, even before I came to Southern California, was to have a stand-alone professional team," Hutchison said. "There is no relationship [with a swimmer]. I knew the rumors before Bill did and we did talk about them. He did whatever investigation he needed to do as an employer and came up with nothing."

USA Swimming's code of conduct bans sexual relationships between athletes and coaches. It also requires that anyone with knowledge of such a violation report that violation.

FAST was named one of three U.S. Olympic Committee Professional and Post-Graduate Training Centers for swimming through 2012.

Under Hutchison and distance coach Jon Urbanchek, it has been considered a growing mecca for female swimmers in the United States, luring Hoff of Towson and Kate Ziegler of Great Falls in the last 14 months.

Olympians Caroline Burckle and Kara Lynn Joyce also train with Hutchison; Ziegler and Tyler Clary train under Urbanchek.

Jewell said he had given no thought to a successor for Hutchison, who was lured to Fullerton by former USA Swimming national team director Mark Schubert.

Bob Bowman, who coaches Michael Phelps, operates another such center at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

USA Swimming spokeswoman Jamie Fabos Olsen said the organization could not comment because it was unaware of any official action at FAST. Before moving to Fullerton, Hutchison led King Aquatics to 13 consecutive Pacific-Northwest Swimming Championship titles and he remains general manager of the club. "Sean has been incredibly successful, both at King and here," Jewell said.

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