Clarification: An earlier version of this editorial described Rick Curl as a Hall of Fame swim coach. That description was misleading and perhaps incorrect: Officials at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the sport’s best-known institution of its type, and the American Swimming Coaches Association say that Mr. Curl had not been inducted into their halls. There are scores of swimming halls of fame, but The Post has identified none into which Mr. Curl was inducted. The following version has been updated.
THE SENTENCING OF internationally known swim coach Rick Curl for the sexual abuse of a teenage girl under his tutelage in the 1980s brings the criminal case to a close. But questions persist about how this predator was allowed to have a prominent role for so long working with young athletes — specifically, whether he was enabled by institutions that should have known better.
Mr. Curl, who guided athletes to Olympic gold medals, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for abusing a young swimmer over a five-year period starting when she was 13. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Marielsa A. Bernard said she was haunted by the image of a young girl with dreams of swimming in the Olympics putting her trust in someone who used it to victimize her. She rejected Mr. Curl’s plea for probation on the grounds that he redeemed himself in subsequent years, saying it was important to send a message that criminals will be held accountable no matter when they are caught.
The same principle should apply to those who could have taken action against Mr. Curl sooner. Questions have emerged about the University of Maryland’s role, and there are troubling inconsistencies from USA Swimming officials about what they knew, and when, of the case involving Mr. Curl’s victim, Kelley Currin.
Why didn’t the University of Maryland, where Mr. Curl was hired as head coach in 1987, call police when Ms. Currin’s parents provided it with a signed letter from Mr. Curl confessing to the sex abuse of their underage daughter? The university advised the parents to seek legal counsel and demanded Mr. Curl’s resignation. He went on to other coaching jobs, later reaching a settlement that paid Ms. Currin $150,000 in return for her silence. A spokesman for the university said handwritten notes from the time show the school consulted with the Maryland attorney general’s office, but the attorney identified by the university as having been briefed informed Post reporters he has “absolutely no recollection. . . . I am confident I would remember such an issue regarding a coach’s sexual abuse.” No doubt it’s hard, as the university spokesman said, to pin down details after 25 years. But the university owes more answers.
Similarly, the personnel and policies of USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming, bear outside scrutiny. A blistering statement from Ms. Currin following Mr. Curl’s sentencing accuses top leaders of the association of knowing about the misconduct but failing to act for years before it began an investigation in 2011 that led to Mr. Curl’s lifetime ban from coaching. USA Swimming officials, who didn’t respond to our inquiry, have disputed Ms. Currin’s timeline, but e-mails and other information provided by her attorney call their accounts into question. That makes us think that Ms. Currin is exactly right in calling on Congress, which created USA Swimming in 1979, to start asking questions and providing the oversight that seems to have been sorely lacking.