FORT WASHINGTON The removal last month of renowned swim coach Dick Shoulberg at Germantown Academy followed a hazing incident involving at least two male swimmers, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Shoulberg's absence from the pool deck - after 44 years at the school, numerous championships, Olympic competitions, and national records - has caused an uproar among families and alumni, and cast an unwanted spotlight on the prestigious prep school and its elite swimming program.
Sources close to the GA swim team, who did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue, described an incident about two years ago when one freshman allegedly urinated on another. While many of the sources used the word hazing, it was unclear whether this was part of a pattern of behavior on the swim team.
It is also unclear who at GA learned of the incident and when.
Two sources close to Shoulberg, who also did not want to be named, said the coach notified his superiors immediately. Shoulberg said Wednesday that he "did nothing wrong" and that his leave was not related to any criminal or ethical violations.
A source within the school, who also did not want to be named due to the nature of the case, said that athletic director Jim Fenerty and Head of School Jim Connor learned of the allegations only recently and that Shoulberg had tried to handle the problem himself and "bury it."
The source at Germantown Academy said tension between the boys has grown over the last two years, with the alleged victim refusing to stay in the same room with the perpetrator on athletic trips because, he said, the alleged perpetrator told him, "Don't fall asleep."
Kevin R. Steele, first assistant district attorney for Montgomery County, said his office was aware of "an allegation regarding a juvenile involved in an assault offense."
He said he could not discuss any specific allegations because of state laws "protecting against the public disclosure of records regarding a juvenile matter of this grading."
But, he said, "school officials brought the matter to the attention of law enforcement authorities and have fully cooperated."
Connor said Friday that the school had "zero tolerance" for hazing or other behaviors that violated the institution's code of conduct. He again refused to comment on Shoulberg's leave or any allegations regarding students.
Shoulberg remains on administrative leave for "a personnel matter," and Connor would not indicate when or whether the coach would return.
Shoulberg has said he wants to come back, even if not as head coach. In the meantime, Germantown alumna Claire Crippen and longtime boys coach Chris Lear have been promoted to acting head coaches.