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News » Deep End

Spin Doctor

U's Chris Hill (kinda) sorry about scandal



“I think this will sharpen him up.” —Board of Trustees chairman Clark Ivory, quoted in the July 3 Salt Lake Tribune on the report detailing Chris Hill’s failure to address the abusive behavior by U of U swimming coach Greg Winslow.

For the past week or so, “Dr.” Chris Hill, Athletic Director and Special Assistant to the President, has been highly visible on the University of Utah campus, perhaps because of his form-fitting crimson Speedos. Even though he tries to go unnoticed by wearing tinted swim goggles, people still recognize him.

It was just by chance that I spotted the nearly naked Athletic Director and Special Assistant to the President as he was crouching in the stacks of the Marriott Library. At first, he tried to get away when I approached him and politely asked for a quick interview. But “Dr.” Hill is a slippery character, even when he is not all lathered up with sunscreen.

Familiar as he is with the groves of academe, having obtained a doctorate in the field of “educational administration,” the Special Assistant was able to slither his way through the labyrinthine stacks of dusty periodicals and moldy texts. (Some spoilsports downplay the degree, claiming that “educational administration” is not a genuine academic discipline, but rather a bogus credential for ambitious operators.)

I finally cornered the Special Assistant to the President (hereafter, Special Ass.) in a small alcove on the fourth floor, and after assuring him that I just wanted to present his side of the story, he reluctantly agreed to a brief interview, in keeping with his very brief apparel.

Deep End: The great majority of the public, at least those not familiar with the inner organs of the modern university, were surprised when you didn’t so much as receive a slap on the wrist for being asleep at the wheel as Athletic Director and Special Assistant to the President, failing in your duties to U of U athletes, and letting the swimming coach get away with physical abuse, drunken displays, physical assaults, etc.

Special Ass: I know I’ve got a good tan now, but did you see me on television: the ashen complexion, the fatigue in my eyes, the incipient blubbering? Believe me, I’ve paid the price. They are trying to “sharpen me up,” as what’s-his-name Ivory says, by making me go around in Speedos. As one pundit wrote, what I did was a sin of omission, twice removed, sort of like not changing your socks. Sure, I should have done something when all those swimmers came to me with complaints about their coach, and I should have fired him when I heard about him punching out his assistant coach. I can’t keep track of everything, and anyway, it was the associate director’s fault, and I finally fired him.

D.E.: But back on May 11, before the special report came out, you were quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, I’m responsible for the staff.” Doesn’t the buck stop with you, the boss, as Harry Truman used to say?

S.A.: I made that statement before I knew how hard the special investigators would be on me, saying things like they didn’t believe that I adequately followed up on all bad stuff going on with the coach and the swimmers. And by the way, what the swim coach did was not nearly as bad as what the legendary Coach Majerus used to do, and nobody insulted me—did you see that the lawyers in the report left off the “Dr.” part of my name?—back then.

D.E.: So, you don’t think you ought to lose your job for doing such a bad job?

S.A.: I guess you don’t know how things work in these parts, do you? They call me Special Assistant to the President, but he is really my Special Assistant. That’s why I made him say in that embarrassing press conference that I’m still the right man for the job. If I had really been proactive with that swimming business and showed some balls, like this Speedo does, we never would have gotten into the Pac-10. What’s a few abused swimmers compared to playing in the big time?

D.E.: How would you like to be remembered?

S.A. (eyes misting over): When all is said and done, I’m most proud of being in the Jersey Shore Hall of Fame. Look it up on my website.