Austin swim coach accused of sexually assaulting student

FILE - Swimming pool (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Swimming pool (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An esteemed Austin swim coach is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student on his swim team over the course of several years, according to Austin police.

Francis Timothy O’Brien, 49, is charged with indecency with a child by contact, a second-degree felony. The victim, now 26 years old, recently told police she was assaulted at age 15 by O’Brien. The relationship between the coach and student lasted from 2004 to 2012.

In the affidavit, the victim says she and O’Brien would go running near his apartment together and that he once exposed himself to her while she was a sophomore in high school. The assaults began during the summer before her junior year. When she turned 16, the victim said she would go over to O’Brien’s house and that they would lay naked together in his bed, continued the affidavit. The victim told police she dated O’Brien until four years ago.

According to court documents, the victim said since he was the head coach of the national team, she thought he would be protected. In the spring of 2016, the victim filed a report with USA Swimming, after speaking with a friend who encouraged her to talk to someone.

An investigation was launched and O’Brien eventually admitted he had a relationship with a former member of his swim team. Investigators believe she was “groomed” by O’Brien starting when she was 13 years old.

O’Brien resigned from USA Swimming in March when the investigation was launched. According to Swimming World Magazine, O’Brien was named developmental coach of the year by USA Swimming in 2015. The suspect mainly taught 15 years old and up.

O’Brien’s former employer, Mike Koleber, owner of Nitro Swimming, said what happened is not indicative of their program. “But rather a very bad person who had nothing in his past, no previous history even with our extensive and ongoing background checks, in addition to a host of other protection mechanisms that we have in place.”

Koleber says USA Swimming has the highest protection standards in youth sports, enhanced by their own internal policies. “The law will take its course and it should,” he said. “I applaud the efforts of law enforcement agencies across the country and especially those right here in Austin.”