“Sex on Boathouse Row—that’s the book you should write,” someone quipped as I was researching my book, Boathouse Row.
For lots of reasons, I didn’t go that route, though the stories were there—flirtations, flings, affairs, divorces. Some were quite public, like the Olympian father of six young children who left his wife for a svetle, dead-drop gorgeous Eastern European coach . Or the late John B. Kelly Jr. – champion rower and Philadelphia City Councilman – who also left his wife with six kids and was not at all private about his many exploits. “Kell” is quoted in the book, Those Philadelphia Kellys: “I guess a little of the fact that I sort of chase around is that I was always in training before I was married. I never really let loose in the ‘old days.’ “
But hidden in some sports arenas –sometimes for decades — are allegations of sexual abuse of minors. It’s what happened in a Penn State shower room, and to some of the nation’s top young gymnasts.
This week such an accusation emerged in the rowing community when the NY Times reported the story of Jennifer Fox, who claims she was seduced by Ted Nash, one of America’s most celebrated coaches. She was 13 at the time, she said. He was 40. Years ago, Fox produced a movie, The Tale, based on her experience and did not name names. But after reading the accolades in obituaries about Ted Nash, who died in 2021 at age 88, Fox, now 63, decided to file a complaint with US Rowing.
“The adult part of me wants to move on, but that child in me, she wants to face him and get it over with and name him,” she told the New York Times.
Ted Nash was six foot-three-and -a- half, chiseled-chin handsome, who, among other medals, won gold at the 1960 Olympics in the coxless four and bronze in 1964. In sketching out Boathouse Row, I considered focusing a chapter on him. After all, when Nash was at Seattle’s Lake Washington Rowing Club, he was among the few male coaches who was seriously encouraging women rowers. In 1963, he joined with Joanne Wright Iverson of Philadelphia and Edwin LIckiss of Oakland, CA to form the National Women’s Rowing Association (NWRA) because women were barred from the national men’s rowing organization and thus had few opportunities to compete.
But when I reached out to Nash in 2016, he may well have been suffering from dementia and responded only by sending a few pictures, including the one above.
Nash came to Philly from Seattle in 1965 as the University of Pennsylvania’s freshman rowing coach. By 1969, when head coach Joe Burk retired, Nash stepped into the post, leading Penn to a wave of victories for the next 14 years.
That he had affairs was confirmed by his ex wife, Aldina Nash-Hampe, who said Nash “seemed to have affairs with a lot of women, and that’s one of the reasons I left,” the Times reported. She left him in 1972. His abuse of the teenage Fox allegedly happened around 1973 when she was training as an equestrian on a horse farm in suburban Philadelphia and Nash was helping out its owner as running coach.
Joanne Iverson, who wrote about the founding of the NWRA with Nash in her book, Obsession with Rings, told me today that she “had only good things to say about Ted. If he was messing around with women, it was nothing I ever saw.”