A complaint lodged against St. Thomas Academy’s nationally honored swimming coach over alleged improper behavior at last weekend’s state meet has prompted the head of the Minnesota State High School League to schedule a discussion with school administration Wednesday.
The complaint involving 15-time state champion coach John Barnes follows his absence from leading his team on the final day Saturday of the Class 1A meet at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, where the Cadets finished fourth.
“Apparently, there is some concern that took place last weekend” leading to the complaint, said Amy Nugent, a spokeswoman for St. Thomas who spoke on behalf of the all-boys Catholic school’s administrators.
Nugent said the complaint led to Barnes not coaching his athletes during the meet’s final day. She said the Minnesota State High School League has told the school there is video showing that Barnes “acted inappropriately” on a previous day at the meet.
St. Thomas Academy Headmaster Matthew Mohs “doesn’t want to say anything” about what the coach may have done “until he sees the video,” Nugent said.
Nugent also released a statement from Mohs that said: “There are discrepancies in the stories the school is hearing from the High School League (MSHSL) and parents and athletes who were in attendance at the state meet last weekend. We are taking time to get all the facts right now. We will know more soon.”
League Executive Director Erich Martens and Mohs will discuss the complaint in a telephone call Wednesday, Nugent said, adding that Barnes will not participate in the call.
Barnes remains the swimming coach at the Mendota Heights school, Nugent said. He also works for the school in alumni outreach.
Barnes declined to comment Tuesday. In a brief phone call Monday with the Star Tribune, he said he was unaware of any concerns raised about him as a coach.
Messages have been left with several MSHSL officials requesting further information about the complaint.
In June 2018, Barnes was named Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association from among seven finalists.
He has coached 14 state title teams at St. Thomas and one at Minnetonka. Barnes’ career dual meet record through the 2017-18 season stood at 144-3-1.
He has coached eight qualifiers for Olympic trials, 15 national qualifiers, 36 junior national qualifiers, 26 high school All-Americas and two World University Games gold medalists.