Girls water polo coach Brian McSweeny is latest coach out at Mater Dei

At 4:29 p.m. on December 9, the members of the Mater Dei High School girls water polo team received a two-part text from Brian McSweeny, the team’s head coach.

McSweeny was writing to inform the team he was too ill to coach the Monarchs in a tournament later that night.

“Girls, I am insanely sick,” McSweeny wrote to the team. “I just got home from urgent care. I have been throwing up all day and having dizzy spells. I am physically unable (t)o be there tonight. Coach Bowen and Kaps have tonight’s game. I am shooting for tomorrow morning. I apologize, I wish I could be there.”

Concern among the Mater Dei players and their families for McSweeny’s health quickly turned to outrage when the players and their parents learned from social media that McSweeny was not sick, but in fact was attending a friend’s wedding in Mexico, according to texts and emails obtained by the Orange County Register.

“I understand that everyone, program wide, has seen a post of me at the airport going to Mexico,” McSweeny wrote in a text to the team after his cover story had been blown. “I will not deny it, and I used illness as an excuse to miss Friday’s game instead of being honest. I do not expect to regain trust, respect, or the loyalty of anyone involved with the program.”

McSweeny was forced out at Mater Dei last week, becoming the second Monarch head water polo coach in three months to lose his job in the midst of controversy.

The McSweeny affair is the latest scandal at a school mired in them for 14 months that have not only raised questions about the culture within the nation’s most successful high school football program and the Monarch athletic department but has also prompted concerns about Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange’s commitment to learning the extent of inappropriate behavior by the school’s athletes and coaches and willingness to eradicate it.

McSweeney’s removal also comes just weeks after Mater Dei boys head coach Brian Anderson was forced out following an investigation by the diocese into allegations that Anderson routinely bullied players, including players with learning disabilities and other medical conditions, according to confidential documents and other material obtained by the Register.

McSweeney did not respond to multiple requests for comment over a period of several days. Anderson also did not respond to multiple requests for comment for a series of months. An attorney for Anderson on Monday said the former Mater Dei coach “categorically” denies all allegations.

Mater Dei declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding McSweeny’s removal.

“I can confirm that Brian McSweeny is no longer employed at Mater Dei. Due to the confidential nature of our personnel policies,” Allison Bergeron, Mater Dei executive director of communications and media, wrote in a statement. “Mater Dei High School and the Diocese of Orange cannot offer any further comment.”

The Mater Dei water polo program has been in the spotlight since April when the Santa Ana Police Department confirmed to the Register that it was investigating allegations of assault and hazing with the Monarch boys team. The case was eventually referred to Orange County Juvenile Court, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation. One of the alleged perpetrators was removed from the Mater Dei team, according to people familiar with the investigation.

At the time, Mater Dei parents and longtime critics of the school’s culture alleged that Anderson had enabled a culture of bullying with the program. Diocese investigators in the fall began looking into allegations against Anderson, according to Mater Dei documents and materials. Anderson is also a teacher at Westminster High School.

“We want to reassure you that the MDHS administration is committed to maintaining and continuing an excellent water polo program,” Joel Hartmann, the school’s athletic director, wrote to parents during the investigation.

Mater Dei confirmed that Anderson had been removed as head coach on November 11. He was replaced as boys head coach by McSweeny, who like Anderson also coaches at Vanguard Aquatics, a USA Water Polo-sanctioned club based in Huntington Beach.

Two months later McSweeny was also gone.

This was McSweeny’s first season as Mater Dei’s girls head coach. He replaced Djoko Radunovic, who resigned after three seasons last winter to coach at Long Beach City College. Radunovic also coaches at Vanguard.

Mater Dei’s girls are 5-4 this season. The Monarchs recently placed fifth at the Villa Park Classic and lost to powerhouse Laguna Beach 13-12 in a nonleague match.

McSweeny told players and their parents that he had originally left the weekend of Oct. 9-10 open because of the friend’s wedding but then scheduled the tournament “when it became apparent we needed games to fill our schedule.”

“I made the unforgivable decision to not disclose my previous obligations to everybody including the team and parents,” McSweeny wrote in a text to the girls team’s players and parents. “There is no good explanation or excuse for this, and I do not expect any sympathy or kindness after my dishonesty to the team. If I cannot be open and honest with those that I hope to lead, I understand if I do not receive the respect and trust of the players in return.

“I love this team, as much as my recent actions may contradict that idea. I understand that my actions have huge ramifications, and that the people I hurt most are the team, who I care deeply about. There is no excuse for my behavior, I simply felt the pressure of the importance of the girls playing more games and I lost sight of my own character. In my first year in leading this program, I displayed dishonesty under pressure which I would not expect from my athletes.”

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