Minnesota High School Coach Lands Suspension for Behavior at 2019 State Champs

Fifteen-time Minnesota state champion swim coach John Barnes will have to sit out his team’s first three meets – and the entire postseason – of next year’s high school season, the Star Tribune reported Monday.

Barnes, head coach at St. Thomas High School, was removed from the 2019 state meet before the final day of competition over alleged “inappropriate behavior.” The behavior was allegedly caught on video, according to the Tribune, but no one close to the case confirmed what the video showed.

The Minnesota State High School League dealt Barnes the 2020 postseason suspension and the school added the ban for the first three meets of the upcoming season. Barnes will additionally be required to participate in “professional development training, work with a mentor regarding coaching philosophy and methodologies, and be subjected to ongoing monitoring,” according to the Tribune.

The suspension stems from “behaviors toward and treatment of his student-athletes” during the 2019 Class 1A state meet in March, according to MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens. St. Thomas finished fourth overall at the meet.

Barnes was named 2018 Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association from among seven finalists. He has won 14 state titles with the all-boys St. Thomas team to date, and one at Minnetonka, according to his Blackline Aquatics bio.

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What’d he do


I have no first hand knowledge, but I had heard he kind of manhandled a swimmer of his while on deck. Not sure if there was any more to it – happy to be corrected if so. Certainly poor behavior, but the lack of any real details let’s the mind wonder to something worse.

Tar Hell

The word is that the swimmer treated poorly had DQ’d at state.

Steve Nolan

Ah, well deserved then.


lol (hes being sarcastic guys)

Muddy Canary

John has a history of this type of behavior at the state meet. He’s the Bobby Knight of MN high school swimming.


Swimming needs a Bobby Knight. Shane Tusup doesn’t count because as far as I know Bobby Knight wasn’t romantically involved with any of his players.


Even if that was true, a Bobby Knight-type coach absolutely should not be working with high schoolers.


Bobby Knight-type of coaches absolutely should not be working with any athletes.


Yeah, right.

Being Bobbie Knight turned out so well for Bobbie Knight and his sport!


There’s tough and there’s full on a55hole. Being tough helps challenge kids to reach beyond where they think they can, but the challenge is finding that right level of hard before a55hole kicks in.


you have been banned from the mickey mouse club for inappropriate b e h a v i o r

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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