High schools linked to Phoenix coach scandal could face postseason bans
PHOENIX – Arizona high schools that may have received inside information from a Mountain Pointe coach were directed to investigate their own staff’s involvement in the scandal and could face postseason bans, authorities said Thursday.
David Hines, executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes the schools involved were asked to submit reports about how their coaches responded when Justin Hager allegedly offered them details about Mountain Pointe’s football and boys basketball teams.
Mountain Pointe is located in Phoenix’s Ahwatukee area and is part of the Tempe Union High School District, which recently handed over evidence of Hager’s activity to the AIA.
“What we have done is forwarded that information to every Arizona school that was mentioned or had some email that was sent to them and have requested that they do an investigation from their end and see how much information was opened or if there was any communication back and forth between the coach for Mountain Pointe and the coaches from these other schools,” Hines said. “So we’re in the process right now of having them do that.”
Hines said the executive board of the AIA, which oversees high school sports in the state, will receive the results of the probes at an October meeting.
He said schools potentially face three levels of punishment, depending on the severity of any violations uncovered and their response.
The least serious is advisement. “You reported it, you found that out, you have corrective action, and the board feels that the corrective action is appropriate,” Hines said.
Next, the board could issue a warning if it thinks the report is insufficient or the school didn’t do enough. “A warning, then, does not allow you to win some of our awards throughout the year,” Hines said.
The most serious penalty could be probation. “If it is found that there was some egregious issue in being culpable with this, then the board could eliminate that team from postseason play,” Hines said.
Hines said it’s in the AIA’s power to hire a third-party investigator in the event a school doesn’t cooperate. He also noted that while his organization can penalize schools, it has no authority over individuals.
Hager, who was the varsity girls basketball coach and an assistant coach for the football team at Mountain Pointe, allegedly had been sharing “protected information about formations, game plans, signals and player eligibility with opposing coaches” since 2017, the Tempe Union High School District said Monday in a press release.
The district was tipped off by football coaches at Faith Lutheran, a Las Vegas high school that played against Mountain Pointe last month.
Hager, who also taught physical education, submitted his resignation last week. But Wednesday night, the district unanimously rejected the resignation and took the first step in termination proceedings.
“The members of the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board are fierce advocates for students,” Berdetta Hodge, governing board president, said in a statement issued after the vote.
“The action tonight demonstrates our commitment to putting students first and ensuring all adults on our campuses adhere to our core values and beliefs.”
Hines said Hager’s alleged activity, to his knowledge, was unprecedented.
He said it was a topic of conversation during a meeting this week with officials from 12 states.
“Even these other states had not heard of a coach reaching out and giving information to the extent here that has happened,” he said.