Tim O’Brien, USA Swimming Developmental Coach of the Year, Will Be Banned for Life

Tim O'Brien
Photo Courtesy: Singapore Swimming Federation

Update: The day after this initial report, USA Swimming banned Tim O’Brien for life.

Swimming World has learned that Nitro Swimming coach Tim O’Brien is expected to be added to USA Swimming’s Banned for Life List according to multiple anonymous sources.

O’Brien was named developmental coach of the year by USA Swimming at the annual convention banquet just last October. O’Brien has accepted the lifetime ban and will not appeal.

Nitro Swimming head coach Mike Koleber has confirmed that O’Brien is no longer with the team.

“I have no details other than what USA Swimming can provide, over an incident that allegedly took place years ago that recently resurfaced,” Koleber told Swimming World. “I know nothing more. He is no longer connected with our program.”

Swimming World has also reached out to USA Swimming for comment, and USA Swimming does not comment on any possible Safe Sport investigation.

Details regarding the incident on why O’Brien will be punished are as of yet unknown.

O’Brien began coaching at Nitro Swimming when the club officially made its debut in 2007, and the team won numerous national team titles at the very popular Texas Age Group Swimming Championships and was named a Gold Medal Club by USA Swimming in 2015.

The roster of swimmers who have achieved national and international success at Nitro had grown each year under O’Brien.

Possibly the most-known name currently a part of the program is Sean Grieshop, who developed from national age group record setter to junior world champion in about a year. In fact, O’Brien served as the men’s head coach for the U.S. team at that meet.

Taylor Abbott expanded the program’s success to open water in 2014 with a win in the 5K at the junior open water world championships. Abbott also earned silver in the 1500 free at the 2015 summer’s junior world championships to give Nitro two medalists at the meet.

Two alumni of the team — Will Licon and Matt Ellis — are now national champions not far away at the University of Texas.

    Swimmers mentioned are in no way connected to the incident for which O’Brien is being punished.

O’Brien and his team made news last year when quick thinking by team parents saved the life of a 15-year-old swimmer in need of help after becoming unresponsive at a recent practice.

Elliot McGill, former head coach at Eastern Illinois who has been with Nitro for two years, has been elevated into O’Brien’s position.

“Elliott McGill has stepped into the Lead Coaching role of our National Group, Koleber told Swimming World. “He is an outstanding individual, and he’s been with us for a while now. It is his time to shine!”

73 comments

  1. Ana Paula Ambrosio

    How you can publish this without confirmation? This is very serious matter to just get some clicks and likes. Bad press service on Swimming World

  2. avatar
    Johnny

    Tim was on deck last night at a meet in good spirits. This seems very abrupt.

  3. avatar
    Dave

    Total child molester. Gross! Come on, coaches. Stop molesting your swimmers.

    • avatar
      Dave

      But, I guess when your idol is RIck Curl…..

      • avatar
        Shannon

        He’s not a child molester. Stfu

      • avatar
        hilda

        He is NOT a child molester, how could you say something like that??
        People make mistakes, and it shouldn’t affect anyone’s views of Tim. He is the most positive people I know, and influenced everyone in a huge way. He was the best coach there was, ever.

  4. avatar
    Dave

    I worked at Nitro and not surprised at all. i started hearing rumors soon after I started and it was clear EVERYONE on staff knew the rumors.

    • avatar
      Matt

      I highly doubt you worked at Nitro, otherwise you wouldn’t be so quick to call out insults. If you knew Tim, he was one of the most influential and positive people I had the pleasure of knowing. Unfortunately we are human, and everyone makes mistakes. But you can keep hiding behind your keyboard like a coward, making insults.

      • avatar
        Dave

        Part of being a sexual predator is being charismatic. Tim was exactly that, which is part of what made him a good coach. The same trait can be used for evil.

      • avatar
        Matt

        Dave, I cannot deny that you are correct on that. We do not know all the facts, but I am disappointed at the whole situation nonetheless…

    • avatar
      Swimmingly

      You started hearing rumors that he was molesting Nitro kids? And you said nothing? I hope not.

      Nitro calling it an old allegation just sounds as if they want to wash their hands of it as quickly as possible. If he didn’t molest a kid(s), he would be better off stating the actual reason for the ban.

      • avatar
        Dave

        Action was taken on several occasions by several people.

  5. Lance Robinson

    Should see the comments. Hey, who needs a jury… Just call Dave!

  6. avatar
    Lance R.

    Who needs to waste tax dollars on courts and jury duty? Just call Dave! Ok,on a serious note, I don’t know any of those guys. I do know what people are capable of, though, and it’s probably best to not perpetuate rumors til something concrete comes out.

  7. Tanner T. T. Do

    He is a wonderful Coach and a great mentor to us Coaches on Deck. Not sure what happen, let him be judge accordingly and have his saying in the matters.

  8. Daniel Carr

    Amy Armstrong Carr Bryan Carr

  9. avatar
    Annie

    Banned for life with no explanation? Great journalism guys.

  10. Kelly Frazer Johnson

    I swam for Tim many years ago. Tim is a great man and coach.

  11. avatar
    Kaytlin

    You can get banned for lifetime for a lot of things besides being a sexual predator, like You could get a lifetime ban for privately coaching a swimmer that is under suspension for doping… just as an example. No one has any idea what happened so get off of your jump to conclusions mat and just keep all in your thoughts because this isn’t easy for anyone involved.

  12. avatar
    Jason

    I’m willing to bet Swimming World wouldn’t run this story unless they were confident that the ban was official. Also, Mike Koleber sent Tim packing. Why would he do that if Tim didn’t do anything?
    I get that people like Tim and think he was a great coach. This story isn’t about those issues; it’s about whether or not he did something horrible (yes, the allegation are probably sexual misconduct). The fact is he could have been a perfectly nice guy to tons of people in his life, but if he was inappropriate with even a single swimmer…then all of you may need to rethink your perception of this man. Maybe, just maybe he wasn’t the man you thought he was.

  13. avatar
    Kristy Kowal

    I’ve known Tim for almost 20 years. He has never been anything but a gentleman and a complete professional.

    • avatar
      HulkSwim

      Still feeling good about this comment?

      • avatar
        Kristy Kowal

        Yes I do “hulkswim”.

      • avatar
        Jimmy V

        Hulk Swim – amazing she can support her comment maybe she should put herself in the victim’s shoes and see if she can still write that. This is not first time she has taken a questionable stance on sensitive issues regarding abuse.

      • avatar
        HulkSwim

        That is truly unfortunate., Kristy.

  14. avatar
    Annika Binfield-Nasr

    Tim has been part of my life for the past 26 years and is like big brother to me. I can’t believe something like this gets published without any facts and allows people to speculate.

    • avatar
      Lance R.

      Like I said before, I know what people are capable of, and you are seeing it happen in this thread. I agree 100% that people should stop being so careless with another persons name before they know the facts. Ditto on the careless publishing sentiment.

    • Tom Pollock

      The article only stated facts. Although this may be difficult to accept, you can’t blame the media coverage. USA Swimming made a ruling and it was reported. The details of the case were not released, so if Tim wants to release that information I bet they would update with a quote from him.

    • Annika Binfield-Nasr

      The ruling by USA swimming was made and published just a few minutes ago. When this was reported, it was speculation…

  15. avatar
    Bill

    The details will probably never come out as to why and that might be part of the agreement to Tim admitting wrong doing and possibly not having the victim having to identify themselves either. He probably had an indiscretion with an older swimmer and although still wrong is not a sexual predator or molester as what comes to mind when we hear lifetime ban and hear about incidents that have occurred with previous coaches on the banned list.

    • avatar
      Tom

      You don’t get banned for life for a relationship with an adult swimmer.

      • avatar
        Nitro Dad

        Actually, you can…

        304.3.8

        C. A romantic or sexual relationship, even if it is a consensual relationship between adults, which began during the swimming relationship, between athletes and those individuals (i) having direct
        supervisory or evaluative control, or (ii) who are in a position of power and trust over the athlete. Except in circumstances where no imbalance of power exists, coaches have this direct supervisory or evaluative control and are in a position of power and trust over those athletes they coach. The prohibition on romantic or sexual relationships does not include those relationships where it
        can be demonstrated that there is no imbalance of power. For example, this prohibition does not apply to a relationship between two spouses or life partners which existed prior to the swimming relationship. For factors that may be relevant to determining whether an imbalance of power exists, consult the USOC’s Safe Sport Policies at http://www.teamusa.org/Footer/Legal/Governance-Documents.

      • avatar
        Tom

        It’s a violation to have a relationship with an adult athlete, but you won’t be banned for it.

      • avatar
        Tom

        Not to 304.3.8C there aren’t – you’re right there are a lot of references to .A or .B which reference sexual misconduct with a minor.

      • avatar
        Nitro Dad

        Tom, there are also references to 304.3.8 without distinction as to which category A, B, C or D. Having known Tim for several years, I’m holding out hope that it was with an adult swimmer; not that it makes the incident right or okay.

      • avatar
        Tom

        How many adult athletes are member of Nitro Swimming?

      • avatar
        HulkSwim

        So Bill, now that the questions are answered, and it’s 304.3.5, you still gonna step up to bat for him?

      • avatar
        Nitro Coach

        Well seeing as nitro is one of the largest teams in the nation are you talking adult as a kid that is 18 or the Masters team? Also which location are you talking about? Because there are two and Tim was at both for multiple times a week. There at least 20 (off the top of my head) of the masters swimmers who swim at USA swimming meets instead of masters meets because of the competition level so they have to carry both memberships

    • avatar
      Swimmingly

      He was the National coach at Nitro, coaching high school aged kids 15-18. Maybe some are 18, but still in HS.

  16. avatar
    Jason

    My surprise knows no bounds with this story. The actual story surprises me, the confidence of people pointing fingers surprises me, and the way people are using their own individual relationship with this man as proof that he couldn’t do something horrible surprises me.
    The only thing that is known is the Tim is out at Nitro and a ban is highly likely according to this story.

  17. avatar
    Sandy

    Was I the only one that read the part about Tim accepting the lifetime ban and “will not appeal”. Whatever he did he is not fighting the ban. That pretty much tells me he is guilty of it. Accepting a lifetime ban from what has been your life’s work is significant. I realize the ban could be for many reason but apparently he crossed a clear line he should not have crossed causing him to be banned from ever working as a swim coach again. I hope there are no victims in this story.

    • avatar
      Bill

      Well of course there is a victim although I’m guessing you mean it was a “consensual” relationship with an older swimmer. The fact that it is resurfacing now means someone felt they were a victim whether it is the swimmer, the swimmer’s parents, or someone else that knew about this and has decided he needs to be held accountable for this.

  18. CoachNick Rice

    I feel like swimming world is starting down this path of reporting before investigating for readership. They did the same thing with the Hossu is using performance enhancers story. It’s just irresponsible to drag good people through the mud without facts.

  19. avatar
    Dave

    Yes, not enough people are reading the article fully. There is most likely a victim here, anyone who doesn’t think this is the most likely scenario is delisional and intellectually dishonest. Imagine being a victim and all you hear about is how the person who did this to you is a great person and great coach. This is one of many reasons victims don’t come forward.

  20. avatar
    Vic

    I’m not familiar with this case. However, in my life I have been acquainted with three men, now known child molesters, who followed a similar MO – twice as a child and once as an adult. Pillars of the community, church leaders (youth group), and they committed crimes against children for decades before being caught and arrested. By this time they were in their 50’s or 60’s. The first one was only 27 when acquainted with my family..In his late 50’s he was able to pass a background check and adopt a daughter with his second wife. The second, a family man, flew under the radar molesting family members- including my childhood friend and years later her daughter. The third was a parent member of our play group, and was able to adopt three boys as a single man- He had no known romantic partner, btw. In all cases there was a rare (and brave) victim who, many years before the molester was finally arrested, found the nerve to tell someone (Imagine the shame and embarrassment for them and their families-Who would want to be in the spotlight in this situation? Who would want to face a pillar of the community with these accusations?), but due to overwhelming community support for the molesters, it proved too difficult to move forward with the allegations.

    In the two high profile cases, following their arrest (one simply on child pornography possession), their large band of supporters rallied for them and expressed outrage that anyone would accuse them, such wonderful men, of these things! (in the low profile case, the victim was ostracized by family members, disowned by her mother). Mass mentality at its finest.

    Interesting information can be found by googling the names John Krueger and Theodore Meeker (separately). It would be wise to note that child molestation crimes seem to follow a similar pattern.

    Don’t be a sheep.

  21. avatar
    Megan Southard

    I hope that most of you folks never serve jury duty. I’m appalled that you have tried and convicted this man without a scrap of evidence. Obviously something happened where rules were broken. No arrest has been made, which would have happened if this had involved a minor, or if they’d found evidence of a law being broken. Step back and don’t convict him without due process.

    • avatar
      Another Nitro Dad

      While there is certainly some rampant speculation going on here, I think you and others have missed some very big points:

      1) People on this board don’t have to convict this man; USA Swimming has already done that. They found him guilty and issued the punishment (lifetime ban).

      2) Given that USA Swimming named him the national Developmental Coach of the Year only a few months ago, they well knew this was going to be embarrassing to them as well. So with that, on top of the obvious legal ramifications of a false accusation, you can be assured that they investigated this extremely carefully and to the nth degree before rendering what had to be a difficult verdict. This was not quick and there was no jumping to conclusions. And there was most definitely due process.

      3) He accepted the lifetime ban and agreed not to contest it. While this is not a 100% confession to the accusation, most sane people would have a hard time believing someone would willingly give up their life’s vocation and source of income if it were not true and there was a viable defense to offer. You are of course free to come to your own conclusions.

      4) Just because there have not been any criminal charges filed yet, that does not mean there might not be charges coming. Law enforcement’s investigation would be completely separate from USA Swimming’s investigation. There is also the possibility of a statute of limitations coming into play as I am under the impression that whatever happened was some time ago. And there could be civil suits as well. This will all take time to unfold.

      So speculation on this board will likely continue, but while we may never know the details of what happened, it is important to note that those who do have all the details are the ones that found him guilty.

      • avatar
        Sandy

        You make some good points. According to the new article it looks like it didn’t happen as long ago as was originally explained. Very sad.

      • avatar
        WahDahFah

        According to Swimming World Magazine he violated these rules below. These rules could easily be violated without breaking any laws.

        He has been banned for violations of two separation versions of Section 304.3.5.

        CODE OF CONDUCT (2002-2008) – SECTION 304.3.5

        304.3.5 Any sexual contact or advance or other inappropriate sexually oriented behavior or action directed towards an athlete by a coach, official, trainer, or other person who, in the context of swimming, is in a position of authority over that athlete.

        CODE OF CONDUCT (2009) – SECTION 304.3.5

        304.3.5 Any inappropriate sexually oriented behavior or action directed towards a member by any other adult participating in any capacity whatsoever in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming or its LSCs (whether such adult is a member or not). Any nonconsensual physical sexual conduct, or pattern of unwelcome advances or other sexual harassment in connection with or incidental to a USA Swimming-related activity by any person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming or its LSCs (whether such person is a member or not) directed toward any member or other person participating in the affairs or activities of USA Swimming or its LSCs. (effective September 27, 2008)

    • avatar
      Swimmingly

      All he has to do to end that is state the reason. Why the secrecy, even directly from Nitro to parents? Do you think the kids are just going to drop it with *shrugs* no one knows the reason? Obviously, the kids are going to be talking about it and in my opinion, deserve an answer.

      • avatar
        WahDahFah

        Apparently, there is a confidentiality agreement in place so no one, including coach O’brien can discuss the details of the case publicly. My guess is that this agreement was signed to protect the identity of the athlete in question but it could also be a condition requested by the coach in exchange for accepting the ban and not appealing – or both.

      • avatar
        Swim Mom

        The club and everyone involved in the investigation are prohibited from discussing the incident due to confidentiality issues. You will hear talk but you will not hear your club specifically state what happened because they are not allowed to.

      • avatar
        Erica

        There is no confidentiality – that’s a line you’ve been fed so he doesn’t have to tell you more about what happened.

      • avatar
        WahDahFah

        @Erica – I certainly cannot prove whether such an agreement exists or not. It’s certainly reasonable that it does. Doesn’t it make sense to you that the athlete in question might not want to be named publicly or have the details of what happened released to the public?

        Mike K. said there is a confidentiality agreement in place so I’ll take him at his word until the facts prove otherwise. If you have something other than conjecture, please feel free to share it with everyone.

  22. avatar
    Swimmom

    Does anyone know the statue of limitations in Texas?

    • avatar
      WahDahFah

      Statute of limitations implies that a crime was committed. The rules in question could easily be broken without committing a crime.

  23. Sarah Hutchinson Koon

    They aren’t reckless about handing down this type of punishment. As a victim myself many years ago, my heart goes out to the victim(s). It’s unfortunately more common than you’d like to think in swimming. The coach that abused me was thought of as one of the worlds greatest…made Olympians. And yet…many years later the truth comes out and it’s horrifying. Sexual predators are very convincing and manipulative. And it’s important to note that they don’t abuse EVERYONE! They build strong relationships to protect their image and only target a few. Be thankful you weren’t this guys victim. But please take the time to be informed before assuming this was unjustified or reckless. There are a few of us who worked VERY hard and put our own reputations on the line to get this type of ban put in place to begin with. It was done to PROTECT others.

    • avatar
      Jimmy V

      Sarah -I agree fully with you. It is a shame to watch so many victims be persecuted when they come forward in the media when they already have suffered enough because people believe the coach is a great person. Victims are brave people to report and come forward and its a shame to watch media outlets allow negative comments and hostility from others be posted when that coach is guilty.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I would ask those people how would you feel if it was your child that was abused by that great coach and people slammed your child for reporting the abuse.
      These coaches do not deserve second chances or even one comment written about how great they were in the swimming world. It only takes one abusive act to ruin a child’s life and for that a ban is only solution to never allow that person to coach or be around children ever again.

      • avatar
        WahDahFah

        @Jimmy – I haven’t seen any evidence that this coach abused a child. Have you?

  24. avatar
    Juan lupez

    Sick perv . Nitro keeping it a secret . No one Knew except mike

  25. avatar
    Dave

    I think there should be sanctions against teams for these type of situations; especially if it turns out the owner knew about this or did nothing when concerns were raised. Take away their Gold Medal Status and ban them from being able to qualify for 5-10 years? No travel reimbursement for coaches for National meets? Mandatory training and surprise audits?

    • avatar
      Sandy

      I agree. Part of making it a safe environment is that the culture of accepting this type of behavior from “great coaches” needs to be stopped. Everyone is responsible for the protection of the children involved. Even one time crossing the line is too much and there should never be an opportunity to cross it again.

  26. avatar
    Jane

    Why are Nitro team owners Mike and Tracy Koleber not calling for a full and extensive investigation into the misconduct by Tim O’Brien? Shouldn’t they be calling in experts to interview former/present swimmers and parents to see if there are more victims? Have they retained counselors to have on hand if more kids come forward?

    The Kolebers say they had no knowledge of Tim’s inappropriate relationship with one of his swimmers, and that it was an isolated incident. If a thorough investigation has not been conducted, and there are no findings confirming there was only one victim, then the Kolebers can not honestly claim that THEY HAD NO HAVE PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE of the alleged inappropriate relationship!
    Mike and Tracy Koleber allowed Tim O’Brien to build a successful program that brought them lots of fame and money, all the while hoping the skeleton would stay in the closet. Well, the skeleton is out, Tim is banned from coaching, and swimmers’ hearts are broken.

    If there are former Nitro swimmers or parents who brought this inappropriate relationship to Mike or Tracy Koleber’s attention, but saw nothing done, please come forward. The Kolebers need to be held responsible for their part in this. Everyone who knew about this and kept quiet owes this to the young victim.

    • avatar
      HAZEL

      I know Tracy and Mike personally as well as Coach Tim for many years as a swim parent and personal friends away from the pool. I can tell you Mike and Tracy are good giving people who pride themselves on doing things right as well as god fearing people. If Mike or Tracy knew ANYTHING they would have been the FIRST to report it !! If Mike and Tracy felt this issue warrants an investigation I guarantee there will be one . Against the odds and nay sayers they built a dynamite program and the reason they are so sucessful is because they love what they do!! Nitro is their baby/family !
      Coach Tim is still one of the best National Coaches and we have had our disagreements but there are two sides to every story. Too many times people crucify and assume the worst in someone. Keep in mind some parents have a bias toward a coach because their athlete was not the golden child /popular one of a group and their is jealously amoung parents / swim groups. And when there is an issue they are QUICK to add MORE DRAMA than there really is like on this thread . There are VERY mature teenagers that willingly consent and when things go south want to poin fingers. For clarity I am not condoning any miss behaviors if there is any BUT no one really knows the facts on either side and I do not want to see anyone on either side trashed on speculations.

      • avatar
        Aron

        “here are VERY mature teenagers that willingly consent and when things go south want to point fingers.”

        Ohhhh, I get it. It was the 15 year old’s responsibility to know better, not the 36 year old ADULT MAN.

      • avatar
        HAZEL

        Aron,

        You are obviously one of those that has it out for Tim/NITRO but you DO NOT have the facts and should be ashamed of yourself . There is two sides to every story! There is no information as to a 15year old. (FACTOID: Some 15 year olds are tried as adults in court of law) To make claims for shock value IS HORRIBLE. Mistake/bad judgement is very different than a bad behavior on both sides but some like yourself want to make it a bigger issue for personal gain! Leave the two parties involved alone it is their business.

  27. avatar
    Linda

    I was in the Washington DC area when Curl Burke was finally accused of sexual relations with an underage swimmer. It was many years ago. The story indicated the parents took $$ for a settlement, but when the swimmer was of age and older, she came forward. Of course, he was coaching Olympic swimmers at that time, and he was banned. His named removed from the top “Swim Coaching” things set up etc… Details on that are not something you want to have happen to your swimmer. USA Swimming has just had too many Coaches in this position lately, and it’s sad. I coach swimming (I am female), but can see how the male coaches can so easily be influenced. Sad for any victim here.