Ex-USA Gymnastics prez: Notre Dame AD dissuaded distribution of child abuse booklet in 1988

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Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick worked for the law firm that provided counsel for USA Gymnastics. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick worked for the law firm that provided counsel for USA Gymnastics. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

A former president for USA Gymnastics said current Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick tried to dissuade the sanctioning body from distributing a 12-page booklet titled “Child Abuse in Youth Sports.”

Swarbrick, an attorney who became Notre Dame’s athletic director in 2008, worked for a law firm that once advised USA Gymnastics. Mike Jacki, the president of USA Gymnastics from 1983-1994, told the Indianapolis Star that Swarbrick didn’t feel it was necessary for the booklet to be disseminated across the federation in 1988.

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Former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison after sexually abusing many of the athletes he was treating.

From the Indy Star:

In an interview with IndyStar, the other former president, Jacki, recalled Swarbrick’s reaction when he wanted to distribute a booklet on child abuse to members in 1988.

“Basically, Jack was very opposed to it,” Jacki said. “He said I think you’re opening yourself up to areas you don’t want to be involved in. I don’t think he felt this was something (a national governing body) ought to do.”

Swarbrick said he did not recall what Jacki described and noted that he had written magazine articles about child sexual abuse.

The brochure, compiled and prepared by the federation, contains a list of do’s and don’t’s in addition to information about how to handle accusations of child abuse. One of the do’s says “DO believe a gymnast who informs you that he/she is being or has been sexually abused. It is rare that a child will lie about sexual abuse. DO commend the child for telling you about the situation.

The one immediately after it is “DO take action if a sexual abuse situation is occurring at your gym. Keep in mind that if you do nothing immediately, other children will continue to be at risk.”

The entire board at USA Gymnastics resigned in January after the federation was informed it would lose its certification if the board members didn’t remove themselves. 

More than 100 women spoke out during Nassar’s sentencing, detailing his abuses of them and his pattern of abuse spans three decades. A 2016 Star investigation that showed USA Gymnastics wasn’t steadfast in reporting allegations of abuse to law enforcement and included allegations against Nassar, spurring the cases against him.

That investigation also revealed the sanctioning body treated accusations as hearsay without a signed complaint — something that, as you can see, doesn’t exactly jive with the recommendation of immediately believing a gymnast who reports sexual abuse.

Jacki also told the Star that Swarbrick told him the only way USA Gymnastics could expel someone regarding allegations of abuse was if they were charged and convicted of a crime. Swarbrick disagreed with the assertion and said the “vast majority” of allegations the Baker and Daniels law firm knew of while he was there were already proceeding through the justice system.

“The one issue that came up on a regular basis with Jack on the child abuse issue,” Jacki said, “was forcing me to accept that the only way we could terminate a member is if he was formally charged and prosecuted and convicted (in a court of law). Or charged and pleaded no contest.”

Swarbrick said to IndyStar, “I never identified that as a requirement.” He said Jacki hired Baker & Daniels when he left USA Gymnastics to become CEO of USA Skiing.

In the report, which you should read in full, Swarbrick noted his role in having USA Gymnastics investigate and ban coaches for offenses. Another former president noted that federation policy referred all cases of sexual abuse to its legal counsel.

Before he became Notre Dame’s athletic director, Swarbrick was also the chairman of the Indiana Sports Corporation. In his role with ISC, he helped get the NCAA to move its headquarters from Kansas City to Indianapolis.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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